Former Chiefs find new homes early in free agency

It’s always a lot of fun to see late-bloomers in the NFL, players who were unable to make it work for one reason or another in their first stop (or two) around the league only to find the timing or scheme right in an unexpected place. After all, these players work so hard to make their dreams of playing professional football come true.

At this time of year, part of that fun is to watch the transaction wire for some familiar names to see who is still chasing that dream and making it happen. Even early in free agency, we’ve seen several former Kansas City Chiefs players come and go and we’re glad to see other teams rewarding them for their efforts.

It might not have worked out for each of these players to stay in K.C. forever but not every situation is right for every player.

Here are just a few of the former Chiefs still making it happen on other teams:

Rakeem Nunez-Roches – New York Giants

Former Chiefs GM John Dorsey took a flyer on defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft as a big, versatile d-lineman out of Southern Miss. From there, he grew into an increasingly important role for Bob Sutton’s defense and he actually started 11 games in 2017.

After three years in K.C., however, Nunez-Roches was let go and the Indianapolis Colts picked him up for the 2018 preseason. Unfortunately he didn’t make the cut and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave him a shot as a free agent a month later. He lasted five more years there and won a Super Bowl in the process.

Now he’s hanging on with the New York Giants and closing upon nearly a decade in the business. That’s an incredible feat for a player who was a sixth-round chance. Good for Nunez-Roches.

Jarran Reed – Seattle Seahawks

Jarran Reed never lived up to the fanfare that came his way when the Chiefs first signed him to play alongside Chris Jones two years ago and it might have been easy to wonder if he was finished after he was one-and-done with K.C. After all, he only put up 2.5 sacks in 17 starts that year and it’s not as if Jones was feasting next to him due to Reed’s presence. In fact, it was hard to chart much of his impact at all.

Before coming to Kansas City, Reed had 19 sacks in his previous three seasons and one of those was shortened by injury. Last season for the Packers, Reed put up another 2.5 sacks in 14 starts and showed his most productive days were definitely behind him,.

However, Reed might show a bit more of a spark this offseason with a return to Seattle, the very team that drafted him in the first place. He had 22 sacks there in his first five seasons and familiar faces there could help him turn things around.

Tremon Smith – Denver Broncos

Of all of the names on this list, Tremon Smith might be the most unexpected player to see in the league. The Chiefs selected Smith in the sixth round back in 2018’s draft class and he was an instant spark in the kick return game. However, the team tried him on both offense and defense and he clearly wasn’t ready for what the Chiefs were asking him to do and he was waived after a single season.

From there, the Eagles and Colts and Packers all gave him a chance only to eventually waive him as well, but something took root for him when given a chance with the Houston Texans in 2021. Not only did he continue to show off impressive return skills (and scored his first touchdown in the process) but he also earned defensive reps and did the most with them—allowing only a 54.4 passer rating in (very) limited snaps with 2 interceptions.

Now the Broncos have brought him in for both purposes: as return competition and as a depth corner on a two-year deal. While we can’t root for him as a rival, the truth is that it’s nice to see Smith earn a nice chunk of change playing the game he loves after so many pink slips.