The Kansas City Chiefs have a significant problem at wide receiver. That is by no means a secret. It almost cost them the games against the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars and it did against the Detroit Lions in Week 1.
Although the wide receiver room is a significant concern, this isn't an issue that will handicap them too much since they do have Patrick Mahomes and an elite defense, but they need to address it.
Justin Watson and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are serviceable but they aren't gamechangers and they're both pretty much the same player. One-dimensional, good for the occasional deep shot, but won't give the Chiefs any sort of consistent production.
Kadarius Toney has shown flashes since the team traded for him a year ago but he's struggled with injuries and consistency this season. Skyy Moore has yet to take a significant step forward after an underwhelming rookie campaign. The coaching staff also doesn't seem to trust Justyn Ross yet since he's only gotten two targets on 24 route runs this season for just a single catch and six yards ($).
Rashee Rice is the most intriguing internal option. He's shown more flashes as a rookie in four games than Moore did in all of 2022. But there's a fatal flaw with him. His hands have been an issue this season and he's not capable of winning against man coverage, or at least not yet. I have faith that he'll figure out the drops at some point but he's never been a receiver that dominates against single coverage. He's a pure zone beater who's awesome after the catch. According to Pro Football Focus ($), Rice has been targeted five times in 2023 against man coverage, totaling zero catches, one drop, plus one Patrick Mahomes interception. Even in his prolific college career at SMU, he struggled mightily against man coverage.
Is it possible that the solution comes from within? Absolutely. Andy Reid may very well figure out the correct formular and/or one of the young guys steps up to the plate. Though it is realistic, I'm not sure the Chiefs can afford to continue gambling on a mostly young and unproven wide receiver room.
In the offseason, we knew this would be a significant question about the team. Kansas City decided to roll the dice hoping that at least one or two guys would separate themselves from the pack. Unfortunately, they rolled snake eyes. Although there have been flashes, none have proven (so far) to be difference-makers.
In addition to not having Patrick Mahomes' trust, the lack of a standout receiver is severely hindering the Chiefs' deep passing game. To be gonest, Mahomes has been awful on deep pass attempts this year. On throws 20+ yards down the field, he's 6 of 18 for 222 yards, zero touchdown, and three touchdowns. Part of that is on him but a lot of it is due to the fact that they don't have receiver who can constistently threaten defenses. Watson and MVS are good for the occasional bomb, but defensive coordinators are not scared of them.
Noah Gray is tied-4th on the team in targets at 13 and is also 4th on the team in receiving snaps per game. Gray has been awesome so far this season, but he's just a tight end and still doesn't solve one of the primary issues their wide receivers are causing.
Yes, Travis Kelce is still awesome, but the team has shown a willingness to limit snaps, at least early in the season. They're going to need someone else to step up if they want to beat the likes of Buffalo and Miami in January, then Dallas, San Francisco, or Philadelphia in February.
Everyone gets it. The Kansas City Chiefs have a wide receiver problem, but what's the solution? Enter Chicago Bears wide receiver, Darnell Mooney.
The more that I thought about it, the more a trade between Kansas City and Chicago makes sense. First, Bears' GM Ryan Poles is a former longtime assistant in the Chiefs' front office, so Brett Veach has an inside track. Second, Chicago obviously stinks and is about to blow it up. If Poles is able to keep his job, he'll want as many assets as he can possibly get his hands on to rebuild his roster and attract their next head coach.
Third, the Bears don't need Darnell Mooney long-term. He's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March and Chicago is going to blow it up. They're going to change head coaches and obviously offensive coordinators. They also just traded for D.J. Moore this past offseason and he's signed through the 2025 season. Also, due to the trade with the Carolina Panthers prior to this past draft for the #1 overall pick, Chicago is on pace to have multiple Top 5 selections in the 2024 draft. It's not unrealistic they draft a stud wide receiver, like Marvin Harrison Jr., in addition to their quarterback of the future.
Finally and most importantly, Darnell Mooney is exactly what the Chiefs need right now. He has position versatility within the receiver position, has the speed to win on vertical and intermediate routes, has never struggled with drops, and has shown the ability to win against man coverage.
Would Darnell Mooney be a good fit in Kansas City?
This makes way too much for Kansas City. If Brett Veach were to pull the trigger and acquire Mooney, the Chiefs would inherit a cap hit of under $2.5M for just the 2023 season, depending on when a potential trade is made. Kansas City would only have to absorb the remaining base salary that Mooney is due for the rest of this season. Even with limited cap space, the team can make the money work.
In terms of compensation, I don't believe it will cost much to bring in Darnell Mooney. He's a pending unrestricted free agent and has a 17-game average of 792 receiving yards. He's also only caught eight passes for 104 yards in four games so far this season.
If I were Veach, I'd call up Ryan Poles and offer a 5th round pick. I'd be willing be willing to part with a 4th round pick or even a 3rd round pick, but only on the condition that Mooney signs an extension in Kansas City, otherwise it's just a 4th rounder.
Look, Darnell Mooney will not come in and be a superstar for the Chiefs, but he would give them a skillset they desperately need. He's the perfect mix of talent and price that's within Kansas City's budget. He'd give them separation ability that's been a serious problem so far this year and would also help open up their vertical passing game.
He's not the biggest name potentially on the trade block as a pass-catcher, such as Mike Evans, Kyle Pitts, and Marquise Brown, but he is the best fit, in my hubmle opinion. Evans is too old and expensive, plus Tampa Bay may not want to trade him. Brown is expensive financially and Pitts doesn't quite solve enough problems to be worth the trade compensation , although the raw talent is breathtaking.
Will the Chiefs actually end up trading for Darnell Mooney? Probably not, but it does make a lot of sense. If Kansas City wants an immediate upgrade at pass-catcher for Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, Chicago would be my first call. He fits the needs of the offense and is also affordable both financially and in terms of a trade package.
Does Kansas City actually need to acquire Mooney to repeat as Super Bowl champs? Probably not, but it would increase the margin for error. We all saw what happened against Detroit. If Kelce goes down again and/or is limited down the road, this team is playing with fire against the elite teams of the NFL.