The Kansas City Chiefs were without Travis Kelce against the Detroit Lions during the NFL‘s season-opening game on Thursday night, and it showed. Kadarius Toney is currently reviled in Kansas City after dropping two passes in Week 1, one of which led to a game-altring pick-six, but he wasn’t the only Chiefs pass catcher who struggled in their 2023 debut.
Eighteen months after trading Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, the Chiefs need another wide receiver. Which free agents and trade options might make sense in Kansas City?
Free Agent WRs and Trade Options the Chiefs Should Consider
The Chiefs were linked to DeAndre Hopkins after the Cardinals released him, but they never met with him before he signed with the Titans. Hopkins’ cap charge for Tennessee this season? Just $3.7 million.
While the free agent receiver market is relatively barren, a few options are still available. But Kansas City’s best route might be to trade for a pass catcher.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans hasn’t requested a trade out of Tampa, but he has set a Week 1 deadline to finalize an extension with the only team he’s ever played for. Evans is set to earn a $13 million base salary in 2023, the final year of his contract with the Buccaneers.
I asked Mike Evans if he’d be open to playing for the Bucs in 2024 if a new deal couldn’t be reached by Sept. 9. “Ownership and management are going to do what they feel is best for the team and the team in the future, and I'm going to do what's best for me and my future.” pic.twitter.com/gEkt79PA9j
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) September 7, 2023
Tampa Bay is in a reset year following Tom Brady’s retirement, and acquiring a package of draft picks in exchange for the 30-year-old Evans could be a wise move for the semi-rebuilding Bucs. Evans could become a deep threat and ball-winner for Patrick Mahomes throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cleveland Browns
After the Browns acquired Elijah Moore and drafted Cedric Tillman over the offseason, Donovan Peoples-Jones might profile as only Cleveland’s WR4. Even if he plays ahead of Tillman initially this season, DPJ — an unrestricted free agent next spring — will likely lose time to the rookie third-rounder as the season progresses.
At 6’2″, 200 pounds, Peoples-Jones would complement the smaller receivers on Kansas City’s roster. He might not cost much to acquire, while the Chiefs could easily fit his $2.7 million salary on their books.
Marquise Brown, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals gave up a first-round pick (while acquiring a third-rounder) to acquire Marquise Brown from the Ravens during the 2022 offseason, but the club’s current regime — general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon — didn’t make that trade.
Brown only has one year remaining on his contract. If Arizona no longer believes he’s part of their future, a trade could be on the table. Brown is due $13+ million this season, but the Cardinals might be willing to pay down some of that salary to get a better return from the Chiefs.
Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts
Michael Pittman Jr. said earlier this summer that he’d like to sign an extension with the Colts rather than become a free agent in 2024. But if new Indianapolis head coach Shane Steichen has other ideas about the composition of the team’s wide receiver corps, Pittman could become a trade candidate — perhaps not immediately, but as the season rolls along.
Michael Pittman Jr. today on the label of being a “No. 1 wideout”: pic.twitter.com/qKoXTwW1kM
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) September 7, 2023
Pittman is a big-bodied receiver who does his best work in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. He’s only 25 years old, so Pittman could theoretically become a long-term piece in Kansas City were he to mesh with Mahomes.
Chase Claypool/Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears
The Bears probably can’t afford to extend Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney, both of whom are on track to reach free agency next spring. Could one of them be dealt if Chicago falls out of contention early?
While it might be embarrassing for Bears general manager Ryan Poles to sell low on Claypool after giving up the No. 32 pick in the 2023 draft to acquire him, it might be the right move. However, Poles didn’t draft Mooney, so he might be more amenable to moving him instead.
Laviska Shenault, Carolina Panthers
You might be sensing a trend here — Laviska Shenault is another pending 2024 free agent playing on a team with a new head coach. That makes the fourth-year Panthers wideout a perfect trade candidate.
Carolina gave up sixth and seventh-round picks to land Shenault from the Panthers in August 2022, but he’d cost even less after posting just 272 receiving yards last season. Andy Reid has had success with gadgety role players in the past, but Shenault probably wouldn’t solve the Chiefs’ problems on his own.
Robbie Chosen, Miami Dolphins (Practice Squad)
Robbie Chosen landed with the Dolphins’ practice squad after being released by Miami at final cutdowns. The Chiefs wouldn’t have to trade for him — they could just sign Chosen to their active roster.
Chosen posted a 95-1,096-3 line for the Panthers as recently as 2020. He’s averaged at least 14 yards per reception in five of his seven NFL seasons and still profiles as a deep threat. Anderson isn’t a world-beater, but he might be an upgrade over a few of Kansas City’s incumbent options.
Julio Jones, Free Agent
Julio Jones is arguably the best receiver of his generation and a future Hall of Famer, but he’s looked washed up over the past two seasons with the Titans and Buccaneers. He’s dealt with constant injuries, but the 34-year-old hasn’t officially retired yet.
Jones couldn’t get it done while catching passes from Brady in 2022, but maybe Mahomes could do the trick. The Chiefs would clearly have to manage his snaps, but Kansas City would give Jones his best chance at a Super Bowl ring before he hangs up his cleats.
Jarvis Landry, Free Agent
Although Jarvis Landry isn’t the most exciting name, he might be the best free agent receiver on the open market. He managed just 272 receiving yards for the Saints last season before going on injured reserve with an ankle issue in December, but he was an 800-yard receiver as recently as 2020.