The Chiefs roster is going to look different in a lot of areas in 2019. Fifteen players of the final 53 man roster from the AFC Championship Game are no longer on the team. Additions to this year’s roster include Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Ogbah and Carlos Hyde among others. Kansas City also made a recent trade to acquire linebacker Darron Lee from the New York Jets.
With the acquisition of Lee, it feels like there could still be another substantial move to come in shaping the Chiefs roster for 2019. What positions could still use an addition to the depth chart? If the Chiefs took a flier on Lee at linebacker, they may still feel unsatisfied a tad with the cornerback depth chart. Besides cornerback, adding a veteran at tight end or wide receiver makes sense. Today, we will look at free agents who are still available, or even possible trade candidates who could benefit this team.
Kyle Rudolph, Tight End
Kyle Rudolph enters his ninth NFL season with a question of what team he will play for in 2019. While Rudolph and the Minnesota Vikings would like to work out a deal for him to stay in the Twin Cities, recent contract extension talks have broken off according to reports. The Vikings currently have the fewest amount of available cap space according NFL.com, which sits around roughly $740,000. Rudolph is set to make $7.2 million in the final year of his contract. Reports are also indicating Rudolph does not feel like taking a pay cut. There was just barely enough money available though for Minnesota to even complete all of their draft pick signings. Included in the Vikings draft picks was tight end Irv Smith Jr.
If the Vikings were to move Rudolph, the Chiefs could use him to complement Travis Kelce. Besides Kelce, the only other tight ends on the Chiefs roster is Blake Bell, Deon Yelder, Joe Fortson and David Wells. Of those four tight ends, they have only combined for 53 career games played in the NFL. Blake Bell accounts for 50 of those 53 games. You compare that production to Rudolph, he has played in 116 games at the NFL level. He has compiled 396 receptions, 3,906 receiving yards and 42 touchdowns in 8 seasons. Rudolph has also played in all 16 games of the season for four consecutive years.
Besides his receiving ability, Rudolph has a big upside as a blocking tight end. If the Vikings were to move him, what would Kansas City have to give up to acquire him? That compensation could be well worth it if a trade were to happen.
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Xavier Rhodes/Trae Waynes, Cornerback
Sticking with possible Vikings trade targets, we turn to cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. While Minnesota would likely want to keep these players as well, money is still the big factor. The depth of the Vikings secondary has also been developed well. So, moving on from a veteran may not be that difficult for this team.
Money wise with Rhodes, the Vikings are in a complicated situation. His $10.4 million salary for 2019 is fully guaranteed, and a trade would then result in a $7.2 million cap charge. On the other hand, trading Rhodes would clear roughly $6.2 million in cap space for Minnesota. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has also said during the offseason, that Rhodes needs to “play up to his contract.” Zimmer is not completely wrong. Rhodes production has dipped the last couple of years. But if Kansas City can add him with the depth they already have, Rhodes would not be forced to overproduce. This would be a win-now type of trade if done by Kansas City.
Waynes might not have lived up to his high draft selection so far. But he’s been a serviceable cornerback, playing as a full-time starter the last two seasons. He also fits the mold of what the Chiefs like to do when pressing and jamming the receivers at the line of scrimmage. Waynes’ length is an advantage when playing downfield, yet he is still learning how to be less grabby. Where Rhodes is signed through 2022, Waynes is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Michael Crabtree/Pierre Garcon, Wide Receiver
Like the tight end depth, it would not hurt to add more depth to wide receiver in order to create more competition. The NFL is still yet to make a decision on the Tyreek Hill situation. Besides Hill, you have Sammy Watkins who has the injury history. Then, there is a lot of youth there, including plenty of receivers brought in as undrafted free agent signings.
Both Crabtree and Garcon are north of 30 years old. But, Crabtree has been pretty steady throughout his career. Over his ten career seasons, Crabtree has played in double digit games in nine of those years. When he’s had a quarterback good enough to throw it downfield things have been fine. Last year, his production dipped when the Ravens moved to more of a rushing offense with Lamar Jackson becoming the starter. But has Crabtree ever played with a signal caller as good as Patrick Mahomes is right now?
Garcon has the ability to be just as reliable. Does he have as much mileage left as Crabtree possibly could? That would be fun to see. Garcon just never remained healthy in his two years with the 49ers, playing eight games in each year. However, the strong seasons Garcon had before going to San Francisco are not that distant. In Washington from 2013 to 2016, he played in 16 games each year and hauled in over 65 receptions in each of those seasons. This includes a 113 catch season in 2013. Both receivers just need a chance to show what they have left in the tank.
Morris Claiborne, Cornerback
Claiborne began his career in Dallas where injuries hurt him more than anything. The growth was there, but he just could not stay on the field. Moving on to the New York Jets, he stayed healthy the last two years and appeared in 30 games. Claiborne played steady in those seasons with Gang Green. He turned in two years of strong coverage, and is still one of the most underrated coverage corners against both deep routes to intermediate routes. Giving Claiborne a one year deal to rotate in when Steve Spagnuolo presents 4-2-5 defensive sets would not be all that bad of a chance to take for Kansas City.
Josh Norman, Cornerback
Last but not least, we take a look at a cornerback who is in an interesting spot. Josh Norman has been one of the highest paid cornerbacks over the last few seasons with the Washington Redskins. Has he lived up to that contract? Not necessarily. I’m interested if the Redskins release Norman as a post June 1st cut.
If they do so, Washington would save $11.5 million in cap space. This may not be a bad choice to make for a team who now has a rookie quarterback and is looking to reboot once again. A release would also allow Norman a chance to improve with a change of scenery in more of a winning culture, rather than spinning his tires in Washington. Given the depth Kansas City already has at cornerback, taking a flier on Norman would not be the worst decision they could make.
The Chiefs roster for 2019 already has a ton of competition at these positions. If any of these moves were to be made by the Chiefs, the roster heading into 2019 may not be any worse for wear.
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– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.