Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has held his position with the franchise for five years now. It’s been a crazy five years with some down moments with a lot of success. The success the Chiefs have seen since 2017 does not compare to any five-year stretch in Chiefs history.
Veach replaced John Dorsey, who found good talent in the draft from 2013 through 2017. However, the Chiefs needed someone to do more than just find talent.
The contract extensions offered by Dorsey to pass rusher Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry hurt this team more than they helped. The Chiefs former GM waited to hand out those extensions, and after Houston and Berry had standout seasons in 2014 and 2016, respectively, it gave the players all the leverage in contract negotiations.
The Kansas City Chiefs named Brett Veach as the seventh general manager in franchise history five years ago today, replacing John Dorsey.
Shortly after having the best season of his career, Houston earned a six-year, $101 million deal, the biggest contract in Chiefs history at the time. Meanwhile, Berry’s six-year, $71 million made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. The Chiefs also gave a five-year, $41 million contract to guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif at the same time they extended Berry. Those contracts put the Chiefs in a very tough spot when it came to the salary cap, making it difficult to bring in key veterans through free agency.
A month into his time as a general manager, Veach traded for linebacker Reggie Ragland in August of 2017. The following offseason, Veach signed wide receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency and linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens and Ragland did not live up to expectations, and although Watkins dealt with injuries, he still helped the offense during his time with the team, especially in the postseason.
The 2019 offseason is when Veach started to become more active as a general manager. In need of some defensive ends while transitioning to a 4-3 defense, Veach signed Alex Okafor and traded for Emmanuel Ogbah. The week of the 2019 NFL Draft, Veach acquired defensive end Frank Clark and a third-round pick from Seattle in exchange for a first and third-round pick and a second-round pick the following year. Despite not living up to a five-year/$105.5 million contract, which has been restructured twice, Clark has thrived the two postseasons where the Chiefs reached the Super Bowl.
Veach also found some secondary help by signing cornerback Bashaud Breeland after missing an opportunity to sign him the previous offseason. While moving forward with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Veach traded quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Commanders for a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Perhaps the biggest free-agent signing under Veach, and one of the best in Chiefs history, is when the team brought in safety Tyrann Mathieu, who made first-team All-Pro in his first year with the Chiefs in 2019. Although his time in Kansas City was brief, Mathieu was an All-Pro and/or a Pro Bowler all three years during his time with the Chiefs.
Veach’s first two drafts in 2018 and 2019 weren’t the best. Among the six picks in 2018, only defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi remains with the team. The 2019 draft class got off to a great start with wide receiver Mecole Hardman making the Pro Bowl as a return specialist and safety Juan Thornhill playing well prior to his injury in Week 17. Since then, Hardman and Thornhill have been inconsistent, but are still part of the team, both going into the final year of their rookie deals for 2022.
Despite the slow start, Veach started making moves during the 2019 season that impressed a lot of Chiefs fans. At midseason, Veach signed defensive tackle Mike Pennel, guard Stefen Wisniewski, and defensive end Terrell Suggs. Pennel, Wisniewski, and Suggs were solid contributors in helping Kansas City succeed and eventually capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 50 years.
Even though the Chiefs brought home the Lamar Hunt and Vince Lombardi trophies, there was little time to celebrate. Veach had to work on Kansas City’s cap space. In March of 2020, the Chiefs had exactly $177 in cap space.
But after restructuring multiple deals, the Chiefs were able to go from $177 in cap space to extending defensive tackle Chris Jones and Mahomes in the same offseason. Two years later, Veach traded away Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Although it was not a popular move, it was one that made sense financially for the Chiefs.
Veach hit a home run with the 2021 draft class and came away with center Creed Humphrey, guard Trey Smith, and linebacker Nick Bolton. Humphrey and Smith have made every all-rookie list while Bolton has been omitted from a few of those lists by the media. The most impressive part about this draft class is that Veach did not have a first-round pick. Instead, he traded it away for tackle Orlando Brown.
Fans in and out of Kansas City are expecting another successful output from Kansas City’s 2022 draft class after Veach came away with five players in the first three rounds and 10 draft picks altogether.
Veach has made some mistakes in the past. The trades for Clark and Brown have not been the best so far. In fact, Veach currently faces a big challenge this week with the deadline looming to sign players under the franchise tag, which is what the Chiefs placed on Brown earlier this offseason. The Chiefs GM was very active during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. His 2020 in-season additions, such as bringing back Wisniewski and signing running back Le’Veon Bell, did not help the team, it is still worth noting that Veach was making moves to do what it took to help the Chiefs return to the Super Bowl that season.
Under Veach, the Chiefs have been to four AFC Championship games and two Super Bowls with one ring to speak of. Yes, Dorsey deserves a little bit of the credit because he was responsible for some of the players that helped the Chiefs play in those Super Bowls and conference title games. However, Veach’s leadership has put the Chiefs in a better spot.
Ever since Veach was named Chiefs general manager five years ago, the Chiefs have won 60 regular-season games and eight postseason games, the most by any NFL team in that stretch.
Part of Veach’s slow start was having to deal with limitations due to the bad contracts handed out by Dorsey. Veach succeeded in digging the Chiefs out of that hole and has done a better job in the second half of his five years as the general manager. If Veach continues this trajectory, the next five years should bring even more success for the Kansas City Chiefs.