The time has arrived for Chiefs rookies and veterans to report to training camp. It’s another year where Andy Reid‘s team enters training camp with high expectations. There’s been a lot of changes in hopes to reach the Super Bowl. But training camp is where we see the build toward that goal start to take shape. With activities beginning in St. Joseph, Missouri this week, we decided to take a look at the four biggest headlines heading into training camp. Let’s get to it.
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1) When Will Chris Jones Show Up?
Chris Jones has held out of offseason activities in hopes of a new contract extension. So far in negotiations, Jones and the Chiefs have not been close to being on the same page. Reports suggest Jones is wanting to make roughly $20 million a year with a new deal. With his production, it’s easy to understand Jones wanting to be paid more than handsomely. He’s one of the Chiefs top five players right now. Also since entering the league in 2016, he’s third in sacks. Jones also notched 15.5 sacks last season, which was third best in the NFL.
Where the Chiefs and Jones seem to be at an impasse during negotiations, is when a new contract would start. Kansas City wants Jones to play the final year of his rookie deal out before agreeing to an extension. The Chiefs also have added leverage with changing their defensive scheme and could even franchise tag in the future, if need be. In this final year of his rookie deal, Jones is set to earn $1.2 million. So for his side of things, it’s easy to see him essentially want to rip up that rookie deal and start a new contract now.
Deadlines also help to get deals done. If Jones were to miss any training camp dates at all, then the August 6 deadline becomes important. He would have to report by this date to receive an accrued season toward free agency. This means if he shows up before the deadline, he can still be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season if he wanted. If Jones were to show up after the deadline, then he would only be eligible for restricted free agency and have less leverage.
Future free agency status is not the problem here though. Jones is simply wanting a new deal. He’s posted tons of workout videos over the offseason, and looks to be in the best shape of his career. Time will tell when/if he ends his holdout soon.
2) New Defensive Energy
Let’s stay on the defensive side of the ball for now. There has been plenty of talk about the new aggressive, energetic style of this new look defense. The mentality is said to have changed, and that has been seen in offseason videos from minicamp. The players have also talked about establishing a fierce attitude and mentality on that side of the ball. On paper, the leaders on the field and fiery new positional coaches look like they will have a good marriage together. Now they just have to execute what’s been built on paper into success on the field.
3) Position Battles
Obviously training camp is about seeing what players compete well enough to win the tight position battles. There are a few different positions that stand out more than others, however.
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First, take a look at the cornerbacks. The depth chart there can be looked at as comfortable. But how content should the Chiefs be with that spot? Kansas City didn’t draft a cornerback in this year’s draft until they selected Rashad Fenton in the 6th Round. The Chiefs added Bashaud Breeland on a cheap deal, but he hasn’t played a full season in a couple of years. Kendall Fuller needs to bounce back from a trying first year campaign in red and gold. Other cornerbacks on the roster have hardly any experience in the NFL, besides Charvarius Ward which is limited experience at that.
Next, we turn our heads to the tight end position. Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the league, and he has the starting job locked down. It is a big question mark behind him though for the second tight end spot. On the depth chart is some veterans who have been around and continued to change teams as a secondary player, like Blake Bell and Neal Sterling. Other than that, there’s not much NFL experience for the tight ends. This will be a tight battle for a spot that looks to be the weakest part of the Chiefs electric offense.
4) Rookies and UDFAs
Every year fans get just as excited to see which draft picks or undrafted free agent signings can shine right away. Some of the draft picks fans are eager to see include Mecole Hardman and Darwin Thompson on the offensive side of the ball. Both have electric speed and are dangerous with the ball in there hands. Hardman may even have a chance to be the Chiefs number three receiver heading into the regular season. On defense, fans are ready to see Juan Thornhill continue his versatile, do-it-all style we saw him display at Virginia. He could be a sleeper for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019. Meanwhile, Khalen Saunders has the motor to become one of the better young interior defensive linemen in the near future.
As for some of the UDFAs getting a shot with the Chiefs, there is a few different spots to watch. At wide receiver, guys like Cody Thompson and Jamal Custis stand out with their success in college. Quarterback turned tight end John Lovett is another guy vying for that number two tight end spot, and some think his strong athleticism will earn him a spot on the roster. Finally, a defensive back from a college powerhouse in Clemson could very will earn a spot. Mark Fields could have been selected as early as the 4th Round by some draft analysts. Despite going undrafted, Fields could be a smart addition for the Chiefs.
– 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.