L'Jarius Sneed has put the Kansas City Chiefs in a real corner over the last four months. Instead of having one very difficult decision to make on the defensive side of the ball this coming offseason, the excellent play of the fourth-year cornerback has now given Kansas City another major free-agent quandary heading into a new league year.
While the Chiefs still have meaningful football left to play—at least a Divisional Round against the Buffalo Bills and perhaps more—the days of free agent losses and gains are just around the corner. And Sneed is well aware of the fact that the checks he's cashing are soon going to be much, much richer.
It's no secret that Sneed is getting ready to get PAID.
Coming into this season, it felt like an obvious move that the Chiefs would allow Sneed to walk. That's. not a knock on his value to the team—in fact, quite the opposite. It's just that the Chiefs seemed prepare to handle his departure—that is until he elevated his play even more in 2023.
The Chiefs drafted Sneed in the fourth round out of Louisiana Tech back in the 2020 NFL Draft, and due to a thin secondary, he earned a Week 1 start for the Chiefs. From there, Sneed went on to have two interceptions in his first two games and never let go of a starting role for Steve Spagnuolo's defense.
Over the last few years, Spags has learned more and more how best to deploy Sneed in his defense, and he's become the ultimate chess piece as a tough, versatile player who can excel outside and inside, play well against the run, and even blitz the passer.
While he was clearly one of the team's most valued defenders, the Chiefs had also invested heavily in youth and potential all over the secondary. The Chamarri Conner draft pick in last year's fourth round felt like an obvious heir apparent for Sneed's looming free agent spot.
Then came the 2023 NFL season, one in which Sneed became a true lockdown corner on the boundary. From A.J. Brown to Ja'Marr Chase to Justin Jefferson, Sneed has shut down one elite opposing wide receiver after another in 2023 and he put on a clinic against Tyreek Hill in the Wild Card win over the Miami Dolphins last weekend.
Replacing Sneed as a strategic piece in the secondary is one thing, but replacing him as one of the NFL's truly great defensive backs is another. As he prepares to hit the open market, the Chiefs know it's going to take a mountain of money to convince him to stay. Sneed seems to know it, too.
That's Sneed celebrating his birthday a bit early (he has to play on his actual birthday) with the sort of cake that symbolizes the bag he's going to need as a free agent this coming spring. On the verge of turning 27, Sneed's payday will provide the sort of generational wealth that's the stuff of dreams for most professional athletes.
It's great to see Sneed grab the bag this year. He deserves it after a stellar four seasons in Kansas City, and as fans, we can only hope there's more to come from him with the franchise.