KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When the offseason began for the Kansas City Chiefs in January after their divisional round playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jeremy Maclin was their No. 1 wide receiver and Alex Smith looked like the long-term quarterback.
Neither is the case now that the Chiefs are finished with offseason practice and the start of training camp looms next month. It was another eventful offseason for the Chiefs, and here are six things we learned about them in the last five months:
1. They aren’t afraid to make a bold move. The quarterbacks for Kansas City’s opponents in their three most recent playoff defeats were Andrew Luck, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Seeing their first legitimate opportunity in years to acquire a quarterback they believe could someday become the same type of player, the Chiefs didn’t waste it. They jumped 17 spots in the first round to No. 10, where they drafted Patrick Mahomes II of Texas Tech. Even if Mahomes doesn’t work out, it’s hard to blame the Chiefs here. They often have been playing with a quarterback deficit since their Super Bowl victory 47 years ago and not just in the playoffs. Acquiring Mahomes came at a cost for the Chiefs. They had to give up their top pick in next year’s draft, so they have a lot invested in him. But no one will gripe about the cost if Mahomes works out as the Chiefs envision he will.
2. Smith is still their quarterback, if only for one more season. One reason the Chiefs drafted Mahomes, who needs developmental time, is that Kansas City can afford it. They have Smith under contract for two more seasons, so they don’t have to rush Mahomes. They don’t have to play him before they believe he’s ready to handle it. So despite the addition of a first-round quarterback, Smith has at least one more year as the starter. But Smith will carry a salary-cap cost of more than $20 million in 2018, so he’s officially on notice that 2017 could be his final season in Kansas City.
3. Cornerback Marcus Peters should not expect the long-term contract offer he wants from the Chiefs in 2020, when his rookie contract expires. The contract for Peters, the Chiefs’ No. 1 draft pick in 2015, for now runs out after the 2018 season. But the Chiefs next year will undoubtedly exercise their fifth-year option on that contract, extending him through 2019. Based on the Chiefs’ recent history with other premier defensive players in Justin Houston and Eric Berry, Peters should expect to be the franchise player at that point. The Chiefs went that route in 2015 with Houston and the following year with Berry before eventually giving them the contracts they wanted. Houston got his long-term contract shortly before the start of training camp in 2015 while Berry didn’t sign his until last March, when the Chiefs were faced with either losing him or making him the franchise player for the second straight year.
4. The Chiefs will pay offensive linemen, regardless of position. Kansas City, after losing many starting linemen to free agency in their first few years under general manager John Dorsey, started to change their philosophy last year, when they extended the contract of Eric Fisher and signed free-agent Mitchell Schwartz. But those two players are tackles. Over the winter, the Chiefs showed the money to a guard, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, signing him to a long-term extension. As a result, the Chiefs are no longer among the bottom NFL teams in offensive-line expenditures. The next beneficiary of what seems to be the new policy could be center Mitch Morse, whose contract runs out after the 2018 season.
5. The Chiefs have faith in their young wide receivers. They proved that by releasing Maclin, their most experienced and most accomplished wide receiver. They are left with a collection of wide receivers under 25. None was drafted above the third round. They have one 50-plus-catch season among them. The Chiefs obviously think the ability is there if they didn’t even ask Maclin to take a pay cut before releasing him. The Chiefs are expecting more from Tyreek Hill than he provided in his spectacular rookie season. In addition, at least one among a group that includes Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, Demarcus Robinson and De’Anthony Thomas will have to go to a place he hasn’t gone before.
6. Likewise, the Chiefs like their young cornerbacks. Their offseason actions speak loudly here. The Chiefs didn’t sign a corner and drafted one only in the sixth round, when they selected Leon McQuay III of USC. In addition to Peters, the Chiefs have another good, young starter in Steven Nelson, who quietly had a good offseason. They also have Phillip Gaines, who was on his way to establishing himself as an NFL starter before a 2015 knee injury, and Terrance Mitchell, who played well late last season. The Chiefs are pinning hopes for an improved pass defense on their rush, which produced little in the way of sacks last year after it was among the league leaders for three years before that.