While no player comes into the offseason putting in unknown hours of blood, sweat, and tears hoping to only make the practice squad, the truth is that there are many players who will be glad to land a spot with the Kansas City Chiefs taxi squad in a week like this. After all, it's at least some form of life on the other side of roster cuts.
This week is the dreaded axe for hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of NFL players as roster cuts are due on Tuesday late afternoon, a deadline that trims NFL rosters from the 90-man versions allowed in the offseason to only 53 total active players—meaning over three dozen players per team (and there are 32 of them) are suddenly unemployed. That's a lot of guys searching for someplace to land.
Fortunately, the Chiefs and other teams are allowed a significant amount of slots—up to 16 total players—on what is called the practice squad or taxi squad. It's a group of players who can continue to practice with the active roster throughout the year, serving as a scout team in practice and a reserve pack on game day.
While it's not the path taken by obvious stars, the Chiefs have benefitted greatly from practice squad players in the past. Harrison Butker is their reliable kicker, and the Chiefs grabbed him from Carolina's practice squad. Shane Buechele hung out there for a few months before finding his way to the active roster. Jody Fortson, Nick Keizer, Darius Harris, Chris Lammons, and Marcus Kemp are just some of the players who have spent time there only to find a useful role on the active roster later on.
As the Chiefs prepare to make their final roster cuts, we thought we'd try our hand at which players will slip through waivers and find a home on the Chiefs practice squad to start the year.
A roster battle that went down to the wire was held at running back during the Chiefs preseason, but despite the incredible amount of buzz he pulled early in camp, it's difficult to picture Deneric Prince winning out at this stage. That's not to say that Prince won't eventually become a solid contributor and/or that he's not another nice find at the position for Brett Veach, but Prince was only pro-ready with shorts on. Once he had to face real competition, the game was clearly a bit too overwhelming for him at this stage. Give him some time on the practice squad and see what he brings down the road.
The Chiefs tend to like to keep at least one tight end on the practice squad, and Kendall Blanton is already a familiar face in that regard. Given the loss of Jody Fortson and the potential leap to the active roster for Matt Bushman, it only makes sense that the Chiefs would be happy to keep Blanton around for security at the position, especially as a known quantity who is already very familiar with the playbook and teammates.
The Chiefs have been flirting with the offensive potential of Ealy for over a year now, and it's easy to see why they would be enamored with what he could become with the right coaching and developmental trajectory. Ealy has good hands and is an elusive runner and comes with the sort of cross-positional versatility that will likely mark the future of the league at some point soon. That said, Ealy has yet to master any one thing enough to earn him a solid look on the active roster. After this presason, it at least makes sense to keep him around the taxi squad to see how much more he can grow.
There were several moments this preseason that showed the athleticism and touch that Oladokun can bring to the position, including an exceptional touchdown pass to Matt Bushman in the third and final preseason game against Cleveland on Saturday. Those sorts of plays are what stand out as reasons for the Chiefs to keep Oladokun around as the scout team quarterback and developmental arm after roster cuts are made.
Mike Caliendo presents a real question mark for the Chiefs, which is why it wouldn't surprise us to see some sort of move with him involved before active rosters are due on Tuesday late afternoon. The Chiefs are very deep along the line and it could force the team to keep 10 linemen. Even so, Caliendo is on the very edge of making this roster with his versatility on the interior and solid play as a developmental signing. Nick Allegretti is first in line to fill those slots, but Caliendo is next and he deserves to play for someone in this league. The problem is that he might not make it through waivers even if the Chiefs float him out there in the hopes of bringing him back to the practice squad. We're feeling a little optimistic, so we'lll roll with it here. Just don't be surprised if a team like Chicago comes calling.
The Chiefs added Gutierrez in May after he was waived by the Raiders and it makes sense to keep another offensive tackle around even with so many on the active roster. (We're projecting six players can play tackle among players who should make the final roster: Donovan Smith, Lucas Niang, Prince Tega Wanogho, Wanya Morris, Jawaan Taylor, Darian Kinnard.) Gutierrez was a Minot State product who signed as a rookie free agent with the Denver Broncos a year ago before also landing with the Patriots and Raiders.
Let's go ahead and complete our offensive line looks by having the Chiefs keep Austin Reiter around for another season as a capable backup for Creed Humphrey. Reiter brings nothing special to the position, but it's a well-established floor and, yes, Reiter did start a Super Bowl for the Chiefs not long ago.
The Chiefs aren't going to go into a season with six linebackers at this point, especially with the needs to keep more at other positions that are quite obvious. Speaking of obvious, the talent drop-off after the first five linebackers here, with Jack Cochrane as the cut-off point, makes it clear that Cole Christiansen will be heading for the practice squad.
Taylor's projection isn't anything to write home about, but the floor here is a solid special teams player who can be a bottom of the depth chart value guy for the Chiefs in case of emergency. Every team needs glue guys and Taylor's profile is an ideal fit. Size issues and other measurable concerns kept him from getting drafted, but he's been a productive player in the secondary for both Indiana and Purdue. The ideal guy to keep around and lean on in case of injury.
While Taylor is the Dave Toub keeper on special teams, Hailassie is another defensive back worth keeping around for the sake of his future projection. In fact, it should surprise no one if Hailassie ends up making the active roster after putting up such a productive couple of months in the preseason and training camp. He's got the size, speed, and instincts, but he just needs better coaching and more reps. If the Chiefs didn't need an extra slot on offense, Hailassie could sneak in as a 10th defensive back, but the way we have things plotted, they're crossing their fingers that he'll clear waivers.
Another year means another stint for wide receiver Cornell Powell on the Chiefs taxi squad. Originally the team's fifth round selection in 2021 out of Clemson, Powell was a late bloomer for the Tigers and it stood to reason that he might require time to adjust to the pro level as well if that was par for his course. He made a very clear leap forward from his first to his second season, but even as he looked very impressive at points in this preseason, he was also charged with some key penalties/mistakes. He'll remain in place for another season for his special teams value and knowledge of the playbook, but unless he's got a growth spurt in him, this is likely his last ride.
The Chiefs kept Herring on the active roster last season as part of an overall shallow group on the edges of an otherwise productive defensive line. This offseason, however, the Chiefs made more investments in terms of numbers and it makes it hard to find a place for Herring over some newer investments like fifth-round selection B.J. Thompson. That's not to say Herring can't make it back to the active roster, but for now, the Chiefs are likely going to see what they have with the younger crew to start the year.
13. Truman Jones, DL
It remains to be seen whether Jones has the goods to play at the NFL level with proper coaching, but the body of work was there at Harvard to excite scouts enough to sign him as a rookie free agent. With 13 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, and 3 blocked kicks, Jones has proven capable of impacting on both the defensive front and on special teams, but he's facing a significant leap in competition as he attempts to help the Chiefs. Let him simmer for a year or two and hope he develops.
14. Daniel Wise, DL
It's important to keep a roster stacked in the trenches, and while the Chiefs could use some significant upgrades along the defensive line, they'll have to settle for who they already have on hand for the most part. Wise has been a quick sub for the Chiefs this preseason with Chris Jones holding out all summer. That won't carry over to the regular season, but it's clear the Chiefs seem to like Wise more than other options on the roster.
15. Ekow Boye-Doe, DB
Even if Boye-Doe didn't have enough runway this summer to make an impact on this year's active roster, he definitely served notice that he's a name to watch. The Chiefs invited Boye-Doe to try out for the team in rookie minicamp and he earned a contract from the weekend. From there, Boye-Doe earned solid practice time alongside first-team defenders and looked pretty good in preseason games. The K-State star and Lawrence native is a nice story but the potential here is all about football potential.
Every year the Chiefs end up signing one or more players to the practice squad who were not around, and if we were aiming for accuray, we'd likely leave two slots open. That said, the Chiefs have a deep roster and it wouldn't be a shame at all to just stick with the guys they know. However, we'll save the last slot for some outside help—hopefully at DT.