Matt Araiza, Lombardi Trophies, and the only optics that matter to the Chiefs

Everyone inside of Arrowhead Stadium is only concerned about one look.

Buffalo Bills Training Camp
Buffalo Bills Training Camp / Joshua Bessex/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

Coming into the 2024 offseason, there was one organizational question that needed to be asked at the macro level about the Kansas City Chiefs in order to better predict and/or understand the team's approach in the coming months of roster building: How much does a three-peat matter?

For a team with a very real chance of making NFL history—not just matching it or coming close to it but actually setting a brand new standard of organizational excellence—the window to potentially win three Super Bowls in a row presented a goal worth chasing. However, like all endeavors, it would also come with a cost.

Consider this: the Chiefs already have a wide-open Super Bowl window for as long as Patrick Mahomes remains healthy. Mahomes has already won 3 Super Bowl MVP trophies and he's just now entering his prime years. It stands to reason the Chiefs could very easily reach the levels of the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots with six titles in just a few seasons—with a very real chance to pass them.

The difference between "Normal Super Bowl Window" for Kansas City and "Three-peat, Ahoy!" is about primarily about cashing in chips. If the Chiefs want to truly be known as the NFL's greatest all-time team, they have a chance with the league's only three-peat, but to chase it as best they can, it will require a bit more win-now mode than ever before.

Take that for what you will, but for the most part, it might mean trading future draft capital for a good buy for 2024. It might also mean signing riskier players or making more short-term financial decisions knowing you're aiming for record books over an easier time of things later for the Chiefs. But those aren't the only indicators.

While Chiefs Kingdom needs the rest of the offseason to unfold to see how spending patterns have been affected by a three-peat potential, the signing of a new punter in Matt Araiza is one indication that things might be different.

The Chiefs were going to shop for a new punter this offseason as it is since Tommy Townsend had hired Drew Rosenhaus to be his agent and was gunning for a well-deserved bag in the process. Townsend had some very nice seasons with the Chiefs, brings championship experience, and should be among the highest-paid punters in the game next year (with another team).

In his absence, the Chiefs reached for Araiza, who should provide solid returns on the field but also comes with legitimate off-the-field concerns for the cloud of controversy that kept him from playing in '22 or '23 at all.

For the sake of review and clarity, Araiza was the former sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills two years ago who had locked down their punter role before he was accused of rape on August 25, 2022 at an off-campus party while at San Diego State. Within two days, he'd be released from his rookie deal by the Bills despite maintaining his innocence all along.

We should emphasize that Araiza was cleared of all charges and the prosecution was ultimately convinced that Araiza wasn't even at a party at the time. Araiza was dropped from the accuser's lawsuit by December, even though it remained in place against other football players. But it didn't matter at that point. The damage was done and Araiza had lost his rookie season in the NFL—after declaring early for the draft that year to pursue those future hopes.

Despite having his name legally cleared, Araiza remained damaged goods from a public relations perspective—or at least it seems that way. Araiza not only went unsigned for the rest of the '22 season despite the settled legal concerns. He was also passed over for any futures deals, and he continued to sit for all of 2023.

This means that for a large portion of the NFL, Araiza is a significant optics problem. Despite the lack of any charges that stuck, the scarlet letter remains and every franchise has decided to steer clear—at least until now.

For some franchises, the punter role has been locked up by someone adequate enough to keep during this amount of time, which likely explains why the Chiefs are just now showing interest. For their purposes, it also doesn't hurt that the allegations are now two-years removed instead of feeling so fresh in the media. But it does prove there was something to consider here and the Chiefs came out differently than other teams.

When you consider that Araiza was nicknamed "Punt God" in college as an All-American at SDSU who, again, left early to declare for the draft (as a punter), it should be clear he has a higher ceiling than most at the position. The Bills already invested a sixth-round choice, proving that one contender loved his skill set enough to draft him.

In a league where holding an edge in any category can make the difference on game day, you'd think signing Araiza on the open market would be an easy call—unless it wasn't. Maybe it's a tough sell to an owner who doesn't want to deal with the questions that come in the wake of such allegations. Yet in Kansas City, Araiza is now gainfully employed in an offseason where Townsend is a free agent. In short, Araiza has a very clear path toward punting in primetime for the next year for a historic franchise.

Are the Chiefs not going to suffer those same optics? This is where we learn something about the Chiefs. Clark Hunt is not immune to the same pressures that other owners feel. Brett Veach isn't here to sabotage the Chiefs' goodwill. No one wants to be the villain—at least not for truly nefarious reasons. Yet they signed Araiza all the same.

It seems the answer has already been reached, at least to some degree. Araiza has been cleared. If people want to think poorly of him, they can. If they want to chastise Araiza's employer, feel free. At this point, the only optics that seem to matter to the Kansas City Chiefs is the image of three Lombardi Trophies sitting side by side by side. It feels like chasing that three-peat (which comes at a cost in other places) is the choice that's already been made at Arrowhead.

manual