The 3 paths ahead of L'Jarius Sneed and the Kansas City Chiefs

With a non-exclusive franchise tag applied, there are now three possible outcomes for the Chiefs and L'Jarius Sneed.

Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

The Kansas City Chiefs have officially applied a franchise tag to L'Jarius Sneed which was an important first step for the offseason. Before that, anything felt possible in any direction, but now there are some defined paths forward for all parties involved (and others as well).

For the "others" section, it means the Chiefs are setting aside any control when it comes to Chris Jones and telling him (and his reps) that they trust him despite a history of holding out. Without a tag, Jones can kick back, enter free agency, let the bids run up with a huge cap escalation, and try to force the Chiefs' hand for even more.

But this is all about Sneed and what happens with him and there are three very clear directions that the Chiefs and cornerback can take things. One of these three will happen and it will happen sometime soon.

Let's run down the options before both parties knowing that it was a non-exclusive franchise tag applied to Sneed on Tuesday.

Staying in Kansas City

One, it's quite possible that Sneed remains in Kansas City, even though many fans are already preparing for life without him. On the non-exclusive tag, Sneed is guaranteed a salary of just under $20 million next season ($19.8M and change) and one choice before Sneed and the Chiefs is to play out the season under that amount and hit the market next year as a free agent once again (where technically the Chiefs could tag him again and pay him 20 percent more).

There's also the possibility that Sneed truly stays in Kansas City on a new extension. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also used their franchise tag on a defensive back in Antoine Winfield, but everyone there is reportedly working on a contract extension and simply needed more time to hammer out the details. The tag buys time for the Chiefs to do the same if they want to keep the band together for more than a three-peat.

Of course, it's possible this option is not the way to go for multiple reasons. Perhaps the Chiefs like their young core of talent and are ready to move on from Sneed. Maybe Sneed wants more money than the Chiefs can give. If so, we turn to another option.

Signing with another team outright

This is the option that no one ever mentions in this scenario when debating on social media, because it's the most unrealistic direction. However, it's a legitimate path that can be taken and we'd be irresponsible not to address it.

This scenario has Sneed signing with another NFL franchise outright—just like any other free agent. That's because, with a non-exclusive tag, Sneed is technically a free agent. He's not on the Chiefs. He's not beholden to attend any team functions or meetings. He's out there able to negotiate with anyone else for any amount.

The difference is that the tag, then, allows the Chiefs to match that offer and retain him at whatever the market rate dictated for him. The Chiefs also have a choice to let him go, but the new team would be forced to provide the Chiefs with two first-round draft picks as compensation for his departure.

If that seems outrageous, it is, which is why most people skip it. No team is trading two firsts for Sneed so that part is a pipe dream. But what is important here is that there are times when a team wants the market to set the price on a player. Maybe that free agent thinks they're worth more than they are, so they need a dose of reality. In those instances, the player can try to find a better deal while the team hopes the market gives them a palatable offer that's easy to match.

Finding common ground for a trade

The third and final path things can take for Sneed and the Chiefs is the most likely in this scenario—at least in terms of the rumors we've heard. Given so much smoke around a potential trade and the other teams who are interested, it feels like the Chiefs are prepared to take this route with Sneed and trade him to an interested team.

Since most teams won't want to lose two first-round picks for a free agent they still have to pay, it makes more sense for the Chiefs and the new team to figure out a settlement for compensation that doesn't require so much from Sneed's new franchise.

In this instance, many rumors have placed a return for Sneed in the range of a second-round pick. Whether or not that's true, the path remains the same—that the Chiefs would accept some sort of draft compensation in exchange for losing Sneed, who they were likely planning on losing anyway.