NFL News & Analysis

2017 Free Agency Preview: Kansas City Chiefs

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 15: Linebacker Josh Mauga #90 of the Kansas City Chiefs intercepts a pass by quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 15, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on Feb. 28, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]

What you need to know

After winning their first AFC West title since 2010, the Chiefs head into the offseason with relatively little in the way of cap space. On the bright side, Kansas City had only two 2016 regulars slated to be unrestricted free agents this offseason, and were able to secure the services of star safety Eric Berry for the next six years while extending the contract of the improving Laurant Duvernay-Tardif at guard. This leaves the Chiefs with little in the way of offseason needs, as Kansas City has braced itself in recent offseasons for the eventual loss of nose tackle Dontari Poe by drafting PFF College favorite Chris Jones and re-signing veterans Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard.

Salary cap room

$4,342,707 (31st in NFL; as of 3/6/2017)

Biggest needs

  • Cornerback
  • Inside linebacker
  • Running back
  • Safety

Notable free agents

  • Dontari Poe, DI, 55.8
  • Josh Mauga, LB, DNP in 2016

Must re-sign

Josh Mauga, LB

While many with clamor for Poe, the Chiefs’ lack of cap room and more-pressing needs at other positions make getting into a bidding war with others over his services a bit foolhardy. While Mauga missed last season, he played 1,555 snaps in the middle of the Kansas City’s defense from 2014–15, grading positively in the last six games of 2015, while allowing just a 54.9 passer rating into his coverage that entire season. With future Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Johnson coming off his second Achilles tear in three seasons, having Mauga return will serve as a good insurance policy in the event that Ramik Wilson, Just March-Lillard and Terrance Smith are not up for the task.

Dream splash

Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo Bills, 73.2

Much like with Sean Smith in 2013, the Chiefs would be wise to take a look at a cornerback with good size (6-foot-0) and extensive experience (4,407 career snaps) coming off of his first contract. Like Smith early in his career, Gilmore has struggled a bit at times, but he has experience in the type of press-man coverage that the Chiefs regularly employ. His ball-hawking nature (eight interceptions and 18 pass breakups the last two years) would fit nicely in an opportunistic unit that forced a turnover on a league-high 15.7 percent of drives a season ago.

Top 2017 free agency prospects

Danny Woodhead, HB, Los Angeles Chargers, 55.0

While Spencer Ware has been a good running back the past two seasons, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 3.1 yards per carry after contact, the combination of Jamaal Charles, Charcandrick West and Knile Davis have had difficulty staying healthy and/or being effective as complementary backs during that time. With Charles set to be released, a back who could spell Ware effectively would be a great addition to a Chiefs offense that has built a nice stable of receivers and tight ends to help Alex Smith since he became their starter in 2013. Woodhead is coming off a season-ending injury, but was a top-10 player at the position in yards per route run (1.91) in 2015, and would likely be a cheap offseason acquisition for the cap-strapped Chiefs.

D.J. Swearinger, S, Arizona Cardinals, 86.1

The former second-round pick of the Houston Texans has taken some time getting his career off the ground. In 2016, however, he played extremely well in 838 snaps, pressuring the quarterback (six hurries), making tackles in the open field (23 stops) and covering receivers and tight ends (three interceptions and four pass breakups on 22 passes into his coverage). Even if the Chiefs retain Berry, the Chiefs play a lot of three-safety dime packages, and adding Swearinger would serve as an upgrade over Daniel Sorenson, a restricted free agent who is more of a special-teams ace than a solid defensive back.

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

Kirkpatrick has had difficulty for much of his career in Cincinnati, generating one of the worst pass-coverage grades among cornerbacks in 2015—in large part due to finishing second at the position in penalties and missed tackles allowed. He improved in 2016, surrendering just a 68.9 passer rating into his coverage, and would likely be a better fit in Kansas City’s press-man coverage scheme than he was in Cincinnati’s defense, possessing the length (6-foot-2) that was vacant a season ago with the departure of Sean Smith.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings

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