Can the Kansas City Chiefs turn their season around at the NFL trade deadline?

With the Kansas City Chiefs surprisingly stumbling to the midway point of the season, will they make news at the NFL trade deadline?

This is not where we expected the Kansas City Chiefs to be at midseason. The Chiefs are 3-4, in third place in the AFC West, and are not guaranteed to make the playoffs. While the club’s offense is still among the NFL’s best, acquiring depth behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce wouldn’t be the worst idea. But the real issue is on defense, where Kansas City ranks near the bottom of the league in nearly every metric. Will the Chiefs make news and bring in new players before the NFL trade deadline on November 2?

Kansas City Chiefs trade targets | Offense

Despite their struggles as a team, Kansas City’s offense is still rolling. The Chiefs rank third in yards per game (419.3), fourth in yards per play (6.2), and fifth in both Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric (DVOA) and expected points added per play (0.138). They are as explosive as ever, although they are being held back by an NFL-leading 17 turnovers.

But there are still areas of concern. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is out for several more weeks with an MCL sprain. Meanwhile, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, and Josh Gordon don’t comprise the most inspiring group of receivers behind Hill.

So, who could the Chiefs target for help on offense before next week?

Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts

The Chiefs have already been linked to Marlon Mack, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported in early October that Kansas City had “looked into” the Colts running back. Mack is still only 25 years old and posted a 1,000-yard season as recently as 2019.

But since Jonathan Taylor got to Indianapolis in 2020, Mack has become an afterthought. This year, the veteran has played only 58 offensive snaps (18%), most of which have come in garbage time. Mack could help tide the Chiefs over until CEH returns — and he could still be a factor even after Edwards-Helaire gets healthy.

Damien Williams, RB, Chicago Bears

Who says you can’t go home again? Damien Williams spent the 2018-19 campaigns in Kansas City, winning a Super Bowl as the Chiefs’ lead back in that latter season. He opted out of 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.

While Williams looked to be the main beneficiary of David Montgomery’s injury in Chicago, he’s since been passed by Khalil Herbert on the Bears’ depth chart. Williams is extremely affordable (roughly $500K for the remainder of the season) and could probably be had for a seventh-round pick.

Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Michael Gallup is nearing a return after injuring his calf in Week 1. But even if he’s still on injured reserve before the trade deadline, he can still be moved.

While he profiles as an important third receiver on the high-flying Cowboys offense, Gallup is a free agent at season’s end. If Dallas doesn’t plan on re-signing him, they might look to get something in return now, rather than hedge their bets on a potential compensatory pick. The 25-year-old Gallup averaged a 63-975-6 line from 2019-20.

Will Fuller and DeVante Parker, WRs, Miami Dolphins

Who knows what the Dolphins are doing? Are they continuing a rebuild with Tua Tagovailoa under center? Are they going to trade for Deshaun Watson? Either way, Miami could have several WRs up for grabs at the trade deadline.

Like Gallup, Will Fuller is currently on IR, but he’s eligible to return at any time. Parker is injured too, and he isn’t the dynamic playmaker Fuller is. But he’d be an upgrade over what the Chiefs are currently deploying at their No. 2 WR spot. Still, Parker has more than $3.5 million in salary remaining this year. Therefore, Kansas City would have to work some cap magic to bring him in.

Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants

While all the options above — with the possible exception of Parker — profile as half-season upgrades, Sterling Shepard could be a long-term value add for the Chiefs. Shepard signed an extension with the Giants in 2019, keeping him under contract through the 2023 season at an approximate cost of $18.5 million.

While he’s never going to be a star, Shepard is the definition of a reliable slot receiver. He posted between 59 and 66 receptions in each of his first five NFL seasons. New York has Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay, and Darius Slayton — would they be willing to part ways with Shepard?

Kansas City Chiefs trade targets | Defense

Here’s where the real problems begin. Kansas City’s defense has been dreadful in 2021. No matter how good their offense plays, it’s not going to matter if the Chiefs’ defense can’t get off the field. KC’s defense is dead last in success rate and yards allowed per play (6.6), 31st in EPA/play and DVOA, and 28th in yards allowed per game (404.6). Send help!

Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings

This would be the big swing Chiefs fans are hoping for. But before you get your hopes up, I don’t know if the Vikings would entertain trading Danielle Hunter. They’re still in Wild Card contention in the NFC, and Hunter is one of their key defensive pieces. But they did seem a little reluctant to adjust Hunter’s contract over the offseason. Minnesota eventually did so, but they’ll be faced with an $18 million roster bonus decision next March.

Hunter would give Kansas City a much-needed imposing force on the edge. He’s posted double-digit sacks in each of the past two seasons and is on pace to do so again in 2021. Acquiring Hunter would require — at the absolute minimum — a first-round pick.

Melvin Ingram, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Earlier this week, Ian Rapoport of mentioned that the Steelers have taken calls on Melvin Ingram, whom they inked to a one-year deal over the summer. While it’s unclear if Kansas City was one of the teams that contacted Pittsburgh, the Chiefs did bring in Ingram for a free-agent visit before he signed with the Steelers.

While he’s averaged 62% playtime this season, that number dropped to just 26% in Pittsburgh’s most recent game. Ingram is 32 years old and hasn’t posted a ton of production this year (1 sack, 11 total pressures), but he’d add a veteran presence to the Chiefs’ defensive line.

Derek Barnett, DE, Philadelphia Eagles

Derek Barnett has never quite lived up to his draft pedigree after being selected 14th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Still, he’s been a solid contributor on Philadelphia’s defensive line for the last five years. But his contract is nearing its end.

The Eagles already made a commitment to fellow edge rusher Josh Sweat, handing him a three-year, $40 extension in September. Philadelphia loves to build up its trenches, but do they plan to re-sign Barnett after already inking Sweat? Barnett is still only 25 years old. Maybe Chiefs defensive line coach Brendan Daly thinks he can get more out of Barnett than the Eagles have.

Joe Haden, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Joe Haden hasn’t been great this season. He’s among the most targeted corners in the NFL, and he’s allowing one of the highest passer ratings of his career. But he’s got to be better than what Kansas City is running out on Sundays.

The Chiefs were among the teams interested in Haden when he reached free agency in 2017, so maybe there’s still some love there. Haden tried to work out an extension with the Steelers over the summer, but nothing came to fruition. He’s due roughly $3.5 million for the rest of the year.

Desmond King, CB, Houston Texans

No stranger to being moved at the deadline, Desmond King was traded last year from the Chargers to the Titans for a sixth-round pick. King, 26, was a first-team All-Pro as a defensive back and second-team All-Pro as a returner in 2018. He’s struggled to reach those highs since, but that’s the type of upside the Chiefs should be willing to take a chance on. Incumbent Kanas City slot corner L’Jarius Sneed hasn’t been very effective in 2021.

Justin Coleman, CB, Miami Dolphins

Let’s finish up with another Dolphin. Justin Coleman is almost strictly a slot corner. There’s no doubt he’s struggled this season, but he’s been successful in the past. Coleman is only 28 years old, but he’d instantly become the elder statesman in a young Chiefs cornerback room. With a remaining salary of $750K, he’s worth the risk.

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