What big-name defenders do you keep?
The Chiefs have big decisions to make when it comes to how to fix this defense, but none may be bigger than what players to build around. Frank Clark is set to make over 26 million dollars next season and 19.5 million of that could be saved with a post-June 1st cut. Anthony Hitchens is set to make $12.7 million and $8.5 of that could be saved if he is cut. Tyrann Mathieu is set to become a free agent and will demand a contract that either is the highest of any safety in the NFL or close to it if KC is going to keep him. Then there is Chris Jones who is set to have a $29.4 million cap number next season. Could trading him to add other assets and free up some space be an option?
Hitchens is a no-brainer. He’s gone. Nick Bolton has looked like one of the only young defenders who has a definitive role. He may not be a great cover guy, but he’s got a future in the middle because of his tackling ability and nose for the football. I think Frank Clark is a no-brainer too. Are the Chiefs better with him on the field right now than without him? Yes, but his production simply isn’t worth the price tag. So I think they are gone regardless of what happens the rest of this season.
Tyrann Mathieu and Chris Jones are more interesting. I think the remainder of this season is an audition for both of them. Are they KC’s two most talented defenders? Yes, I believe so, but if the defense remains terrible with their talent on it and keeping them means you don’t have enough resources to make needed improvements then that becomes something the Chiefs have to look at closely. Does parting ways with them create bigger holes in an already bad defense than the money they free up can fix?
That is what the Chiefs have to look closely at the rest of this season. How vital are Mathieu and Jones to the long-term success of this defense? Nobody is questioning their talent, but everything comes with a cost, and if this defense needs a major overhaul, are you better committing those resources to multiple young and athletic players who fit the mold of a Juan Thornhill or Willie Gay, or are you better off with the proven big-name guys who give the Chiefs some proven commodities to build around?
I don’t know the answer to this one yet, but it is something I will be watching and thinking about the rest of this season.
Now let’s move to the offensive side of the ball.