After finishing the NFL season 14-2, the Chiefs’ free agents in 2021 include 28 (17 UFA) players. One of the biggest questions heading into the free agency period that looms over the Chiefs is how they will continue their success into 2021 and beyond.
The team will face some serious issues regarding the offensive line and on the defensive side of the ball.
The Chiefs may not have the means to be big players in free agency in 2021
In only his fourth year on the job, Chiefs’ GM Brett Veach has built a perennial powerhouse. Veach has done a fantastic job building the Chiefs through the NFL Draft and acquiring high-profile players via trades and free agency. However, in 2021, Veach may face one of his toughest offseasons yet in terms of cap management for the Chiefs’ free agency.
The team has key players locked in for the long-term, such as QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Tyreek Hill, DL Chris Jones, and EDGE Frank Clark. However, because of these massive contracts, the Chiefs are estimated to be nearly $19 million over the salary cap, according to Over The Cap.
With the drop in cap space rather than the usual increase teams see, this may pose some issues for the Chiefs when free agency starts. In addition, this could force them to focus more on building through the draft and trades.
Will the Chiefs move on from several key veterans in 2021?
Because of their salary cap situation, the Chiefs may be forced into some tough personnel decisions. For instance, Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher will be entering the final year of his contract in 2021 and just suffered an Achilles injury. Therefore, this could lead to the Chiefs making a tough decision to move on from their former first overall pick.
Fisher’s current deal would save the Chiefs $12 million in cap space for 2021 and cost about $3.1 million in dead cap space. Fisher’s presence would surely be missed, especially being a Pro Bowler in two of the last three seasons.
Other veterans that may end up being cap casualties include running back Damien Williams ($2.2 million in savings) and a surprise one in safety Tyrann Mathieu ($14.8 million in savings).
While they would have a tough time replacing Mathieu, moving on from him in 2021 could help them with their cap issues. However, considering Mathieu has been an All-Pro safety and a leader for the Chiefs, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Chiefs restructure his deal to help the team.
In addition, veteran safety Daniel Sorensen is scheduled to hit the free-agent market, along with several other key secondary pieces. However, expect the Chiefs to do everything they can to keep this unit together. Veach has been tremendous in getting players to work with the team on restructures.
Will Kansas City move on from Sammy Watkins?
Former first-round wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been a key contributor for the Chiefs’ offense during the past three seasons. His time in Kansas City may be up after the Super Bowl, however, and he may be on to his fourth career team.
Watkins, 28, will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. There were some rumors that Watkins was mulling retirement after winning the Super Bowl in 2020. However, the Clemson product returned for a third season with the Chiefs. In addition, with receivers like Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson getting more action in the Kansas City offense, Watkins’ role looks to be one they may replace going into next season.
According to Spotrac, Watkins’ market value sits at about $10.6 million on a two-year, $21.3 million contract. If Watkins decides to keep playing in the NFL in 2021, it likely won’t be with the Chiefs. Watkins had the second-lowest reception total (28) of his career and record lows in yards (421) and touchdowns (2) in 2020.
Robinson is also set to hit the free-agent market in 2021. The Chiefs will have a tough time replacing both him and Watkins. WR Byron Pringle is also a restricted free agent this season and will likely return.
In addition, the team also signed former Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins receiver Antonio Callaway to a futures contract. Due to their salary cap situation, the NFL Draft will be their best bet at finding a replacement. However, if the team can, they will likely attempt to bring Robinson back over the oft-injured Watkins.
Will the offensive line be a focus in the 2021 NFL Draft for the Chiefs?
The Chiefs’ offensive line could use an upgrade in several areas. As it stands, they will have a hodgepodge of inexperience across the front. Going into the 2021 offseason, the team will face many questions.
We already talked about the possibility of left tackle Eric Fisher being a cap casualty, but center Austin Reiter will be an unrestricted free agent. Reiter may have very well priced himself into a new contract elsewhere.
According to Spotrac, Reiter will have an $11.4 million market value on a three-year, $34.2 million contract. This would put Reiter on track with Ryan Kelly, who signed a four-year, $50 million contract. If the Chiefs aren’t able to restructure deals with Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, Reiter will likely be playing elsewhere in 2021 and beyond.
Reiter’s departure would give the Chiefs an opportunity to look at a replacement in the NFL Draft. This year’s class isn’t one that carries a tremendous amount of weight at the position. There are some prospects the Chiefs could target. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, Ohio State’s Josh Myers, Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz, and Alabama’s Landon Dickerson (suffered a torn ACL in 2020) could all be viable long-term replacements for the Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021 offensive free agents
WR Sammy Watkins, 28
WR Demarcus Robinson, 27
C Austin Reiter, 30
G Mike Remmers, 32
G Kelechi Osemele, 32
FB Anthony Sherman, 33
C Daniel Kilgore, 34
G Stefen Wisniewski, 32
RB Le’Veon Bell, 29
TE Ricky Seals-Jones, 26
G Andrew Wylie, 27
TE Deon Yelder, 26
RB Darrel Williams, 26
WR Byron Pringle, 28
TE Nick Keizer, 26
WR Gehrig Dieter, 27
Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021 defensive and special teams free agents
S Daniel Sorensen, 31
CB Bashaud Breeland, 29
EDGE Alex Okafor, 30
LB Damien Wilson, 28
EDGE Tanoh Kpassagnon, 27
CB Antonio Hamilton, 28
DL Mike Pennel, 30
EDGE Taco Charlton, 27
LB Ben Niemann, 26
CB Charvarius Ward, 25
CB Alex Brown, 25
LB Emmanuel Smith, 26
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