How former KC Chiefs fared with their new teams in Week 1

Let's take a look at how some familiar faces and doing with new teams so far in 2023.
Buffalo Bills v New York Jets
Buffalo Bills v New York Jets / Michael Owens/GettyImages

Several former Kansas City Chiefs made their debut with their new teams in week one of the 2023 NFL season this past week. The Chiefs said goodbye to a plethora of key players from their 2022 Super Bowl run this past offseason, and they also said goodbye to a handful of contributors from both of the team's Super Bowls over the last five seasons.

Unfortunately, as everyone knows, the NFL is a business and Kansas City can't hold onto everyone.
It is not always the team's choice but rather a matter of not being able to pay everyone. They also may not want to hold onto everyone. Draft picks will bust and players will overstay their welcome. That's just the nature of the business. Players come and go and Kansas City signs or drafts their replacements to give the team the best possible chance to win every year.

As for those players that depart, many of them seek greener pastures whether it's for increased opportunity or increased pay. Whatever the reason, it's interesting to see where many of these guys end up and how they fare at their new destinations. With that being said, let's check up on those former Chiefs and see what they're up to after week one with their new teams.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

After somewhat of a career revival with Kansas City with a year of being Patrick Mahomes' No. 1 wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster put up just over 900 yards and 3 touchdowns with the Chiefs. Smith-Schuster had a rough last couple of years in Pittsburgh and wasn't seeing the free agent market he hoped for, so he signed a 1-year deal with Kansas City to prove himself as one of the better wide receivers in the NFL.

Kansas City was unable to re-sign Schuster as he signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the New England Patriots. Many Chiefs fans were upset that the team did not retain Smith-Schuster at that number but following offseason reports of lingering knee issues stemming from last season for Smith-Schuster, it may be a factor as to why the team was okay letting him walk.

In his first game with New England, Smith-Schuster had 4 catches for 33 yards, with a long of 15 yards in a 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He played more of a possession receiver role and didn't make a huge impact, but health provided, we can reasonably expect Smith-Schuster to have some big games for New England in the future.

Mecole Hardman

Mecole Hardman was one of the most frustrating Chiefs players in recent memory. There were high hopes after his rookie year but he just kind of remained the same player for four years and struggled to ever really grasp a consistent role in the Chiefs offense.

Nonetheless, Hardman had his big plays for Kansas City and helped more often than he hurt the team's ability to win. Unfortunately for Hardman, his last season with Kansas City was cut short due to injury which led him to sign a very cheap one-year, $4 million deal with the New York Jets.

It seemed like a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Jets, a team with a lot of promise heading into 2023. Hardman was always going to have value as a gadget player with speed to burn, but it apparently wasn't enough to allow him to see the field in week one with his new team. Hardman recorded 0 offensive snaps and just 1 special teams snap with the Jets in their thrilling week one victory over the Buffalo Bills and he seems to be buried pretty deep on the depth chart for whatever reason.

Orlando Brown, Jr.

Former Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown had a very up-and-down stint with Kansas City and a lot of contract drama for the majority of his tenure. In the end, the trade for Brown can be considered a success because the Chiefs won a Super Bowl with him as their starting left tackle and he allowed zero sacks in Super Bowl LVII.

The Orlando Brown era wasn't always rosy and he struggled in many matchups, but he also had his fair share of really good games. Brown and the Chiefs could never come to an agreement on a new contract, however, and he bet on himself after turning down a massive extension from Kansas City. That turned out to be the wrong financial move for Brown who would go on to make less in his free agent contract from the Cincinnati Bengals. Signing with an AFC rival certainly left a sour taste in many Chiefs fans' mouth

There has been back and forth all offseason from Chiefs fans and Bengals fans over how good Brown actually is, but we all got to see Brown play in Week 1 starting at left tackle for the Bengals as he went up against Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns. The Bengals were clobbered by the Browns in week one and Myles Garrett sure got his against Orlando Brown just like we saw in Orlando Brown's first game with the Chiefs a couple of years ago. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was rather flustered all game and he passed for a lowly 77 yards in the team's season opener.

Juan Thornhill

Juan Thornhill was another story of unfulfilled potential for a young player on the Kansas City Chiefs. Thornhill looked like he was going to be a cornerstone for the future and a mainstay in the Chiefs secondary for years to come. Then, Thornhill tore his ACL at the end of his rookie season. After that, Thornhill never seemed to get back to his rookie-year form. There was even a point in time when the team flat-out refused to play Thornhill over a declining Dan Sorensen.

After his rookie contract expired, Thornhill signed a multiyear deal with the Cleveland Browns in hopes of finding his footing. While Thornhill will surely contribute at some point for Cleveland, he was forced to miss their first game of the season due to a calf injury he sustained in the preseason.

Frank Clark

Possibly the biggest free agent move among former Chiefs this offseason, was defensive end Frank Clark heading to the Denver Broncos. Clark was cut from the Chiefs after four years with the team due to a high cap number which led to him becoming a free agent.

Many fans wanted Clark to return on a cheap deal for one more run at a title, but that was always going to be easier said than done. The Chiefs didn't have a lot of cap space for most of the offseason and there was always going to be a team that could offer Clark more money and a bigger role given the other investments Kansas City made on their defensive line.

Clark would go on to sign a one-year, $7.5 million deal With Denver. Have to imagine there was a little bit of a motive for Clark to head to an AFC West rival, but Denver also gave Clark an opportunity to start and change the culture of a Broncos locker room that needed the shakeup.

In his first appearance as a Bronco, Clark played a rotational role as fellow Broncos defensive end Johnathan Cooper won the starting job in the preseason. Clark recorded just two solo tackles...and an offsides penalty.

Khalen Saunders

Defensive tackle Khalen Saunders became a true presence in his final season with Kansas City following the loss of Tershawn Wharton to a torn ACL during the 2022 season. Saunders struggled to ever really crack the rotation in his first few years with Kansas City, but last year he was finally given a great opportunity to flash his athleticism and potential, becoming a solid pass-rushing defensive tackle and a good run defender playing next to Chris Jones.

Saunders' contract year allowed him to net a three-year, $12.5 million contract with the New Orleans Saints. Saunders recorded just one combined tackle in his New Orleans debut, but he played 44% of the team's defensive snaps in week one, which indicates he'll be an integral piece of their defense in 2023.