Wednesday marked the first official day of business for the upcoming 2018 NFL season and the Chiefs made several already announced moves official, plus made a couple more.
Prior to his first free agency as Chiefs GM, Brett Veach quickly recognized the team’s to do list: get younger and rid themselves of bad contracts. They traded Alex Smith while releasing Derrick Johnson, fellow Chief great Tamba Hali and safety Ron Parker and also traded Marcus Peters signaling a culture change and a desire to get younger and faster. With a young offense with limitless potential (if Patrick Mahomes is as good as everyone says), an aging defense that ranked towards the bottom of the league in every major category would do no good. They also addressed one of their biggest needs in 25 year-old LB Anthony Hitchens to replace Derrick Johnson. At $45 million for the next five years, it would seem extensive, but a closer look at the contract shows it’s really a two-year deal (both ‘18 and ‘19 salaries are fully guaranteed) and afterward, the Chiefs can take it year-by-year.
“We believe Anthony has a lot of ability and a tremendous upside,” Reid said. “He’s a physical player that has consistently performed at a high level. He’ll fit well into our defensive system.”
Hitchens has played in 60 games (48 starts) in four NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (2014-17). His career numbers include 301 tackles (190 solo), 21 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and 14 pressures. He owns two forced fumbles, eight passes defensed and one interception
It’s a smart deal that adds speed to a lethargic defense whiteout stressing the cap. I don’t expect this to be the last move on defense, though. With Terrance Mitchell headed to Cleveland (3 years, $12M) and Phillip Gaines not likely to be re-signed, they still need a corner (or two). With Parker gone, safety could also need a body, and for what it’s worth, Tyrann Mathieu is now a free agent, and could play either spot. The Chiefs are reportedly interested if they can “make the money work.”
As we all saw in the Wild Card round, the Chiefs needed more weapons. Once Travis Kelce went down, the offense went dead, despite having Ty Hill and Kareem Hunt. Veach must’ve been playing close attention, because he added a big-play threat to the team as well. Coming over from L.A is wide receiver Sammy Watkins on a 3-year, $48 million contract, with $21M due at signing and $30M guaranteed. It’s a significant deal for a receiver who has missed time with injuries and hasn’t quite lived up to his billing after being taken No. 4 overall in 2014 (to be fair, it’s not fault Buffalo thought he was better than Odell Beckham). He set a Bills rookie record with 65 catches in 2014, and went over 1,000 yards and set a career-high in TD (9) in 2015. However, Watkins brings speed and a veteran presence to a young unit that hasn’t seen much production from a collection of ancillary receivers (Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, and recently departed Albert Wilson). Scoring eight times last weapon, Watkins demonstrated a knack for creating offense even though he wasn’t in sync with Jared Goff much of the year and averaged an impressive 15.2 yards per catch. With a full offseason with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, he has the chance to recapture some of his Clemson magic while giving the Chiefs offense arguably the best collection of offensive skill position players in the entire league.
“I feel like I have more in my tank,” Watkins said. “I feel like I can get a head start and be my best version of myself…I’m a young guy. I’m only 24 years old.”
“Sammy Watkins went to L.A. and helped them achieve great things in that offense, and keep in mind that he didn’t get there until a week before the season,” Veach said. “Imagine him being here and we have the whole offseason to absorb everything and go out there and play fast. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
“We expect to win and we’re going to be picking at the bottom of the draft…we had once chance to go get him, and we made it happen.”
Four of their own returned with new deals. Punter Dustin Colquitt signed a new 3-year, $7.5M deal that could be worth $9M. Fullback Anthony Sherman, LB Terrance Smith and WR De’Anthony Thomas also re-upped with the team, as well OL Jordan Devey and DL Jarvis Jenkins. The Chiefs also tendered Rakeem Nunez-Roches at original round (6th).
The team addressed their backup QB need with the signing of veteran Chad Henne to a 2-year deal. He has played in 67 games (53 starts) in 10 NFL seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2012-17) and Miami Dolphins (2008-11). His career numbers include 1,159 completions on 1,956 attempts (59.3%) for 12,931 yards with 58 touchdowns and 63 interceptions (75.5 rating). He originally entered the NFL as a second-round selection (57th overall) of the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 NFL Draft (Michigan).
The Chiefs will look to add a third-teamer, likely in the draft, after the departure of Tyler Bray, who is now a Chicago Bear, re-uniting with Matt Nagy. The team still could add depth along the offensive line, especially with the departure of interior lineman Zach Fulton (Houston Texans).
The Chiefs also thanked Tamba Hali, Alex Smith and Marcus Peters on their social media accounts.
They welcomed their new additions:
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