What happens if Clyde Edwards-Helaire is injured again?

Clyde Edwards-Helaire #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Despite being added to the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Tuesday, Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was ready to go on the official first day of training camp on Wednesday.

As such, it seems that Edwards-Helaire will avoid missing time at this stage, but the question still persists: what happens for Kansas City if their presumptive lead back is unable to be a full-time contributor or, worse yet, sustains continued injuries?

Unfortunately, this is relevant to ponder despite the fact that Edwards-Helaire is back and ready for camp, precisely because an injury and missing time would be nothing new for the 2020 first round draft pick. He’s found himself forced to sit out numerous practices and games over his first two seasons in the NFL. In fact, of the 33 regular season games for which CEH has been on the Chiefs’ roster, he’s been injured/sidelined for 10 of them—a whopping 30 percent. As the old adage goes, “the best ability is availability” and in that regard, the former LSU Tiger has had a disappointing start to his NFL career.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s injury history has us wondering what would happen in 2022 if something went wrong for the Chiefs running back.sfd

Let’s look at the three most likely outcomes if such a trend were to continue into the season for Edwards-Helaire.

First, the good news is that the Chiefs are more fortunate than most given their running back depth and talent. Kansas City knows what it has when it comes to the two running backs returning to the room from last season. Both Jerrick McKinnon and Derrick Gore saw significant live game action for the Chiefs last season, and both proved they’re at least capable of being productive in head coach Andy Reid’s offense, averaging five yards per carry in 2021. If Kansas City is forced to navigate come of the 2022 season without the former 1st Team All-SEC running back, the team knows it has capable bodies who know the offense and can be productive.

Second, it’s nice to know that more options exist for the Chiefs’ offense. The team added two new running backs to the depth chart this offseason who would benefit the most from an absent Edwards-Helaire. The first of those is veteran Ronald Jones, who Kansas City added via free agency from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In four years with Tampa, Jones averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per reception while scoring 19 touchdowns. The Chiefs added Jones to presumably replace the production lost when Darrel Williams left for the Arizona Cardinals in free agency. While it seems unlikely that, after four years in the league, Jones becomes a featured back for Kansas City or any other offense, it does seem evident that he can be a contributor as part of a running back committee.

The second new face in the running back room is rookie seventh round draft pick Isiah Pacheco out of Rutgers. While it seems somewhat concerning to rely heavily on a rookie taken that late in the draft, more than one person has commented on his potential for this team, in this offense. He would certainly benefit, perhaps more than any other player on the roster, from snaps he may receive if the Chiefs revert to a broader committee of backs this season.

The last point worth mentioning is that while it is unlikely that Kansas City cuts Clyde Edwards-Helaire before the 2022 season (they’d take on almost $2.6M in dead money to do so), they could look to trade him if they wanted. Or, more likely, the Chiefs could cut their former top pick after this season with no dead cap hit (and in fact, would save nearly $1M by doing so). This may very well be a make-or-break season for the young running back, especially if Kansas City finds an apt replacement in someone like Pacheco or McKinnon.

This stands to be an incredibly important training camp, preseason and season for the 2020 NFL Draft’s 32nd overall draft pick. While currently the news from this (short) stint on the PUP list looks positive, the team has to have doubts about Edwards-Helaire’s reliability this season and into the future. With a plethora of options behind him on the depth chart, CEH cannot afford to miss (substantial) time between now and the end of the season if he hopes to retain his starting role and/or earn a new contract from Kansas City.

Next. Ranking the Chiefs top 15 draft picks ever. dark