Which is better to win? Free Agency or the draft?
Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus Jake White @JakeWhite58
Every offseason has micro-seasons in it. Free agency, predraft, the combine, the second wave of free agency, the draft, and the final wave of free agency. So which micro-season is the best to win. And which should the Kanas City Chiefs try to win.
The easy answer is all of them, but each team has different goals and different ideals. Some teams are in win-now and can’t afford to wait for a draft pick to grow into their potential. Some teams are missing several pieces and can’t afford to go all-in on a veteran who may not move their franchise needle.
How does a team win the draft? Do they draft the Rookie of the Year or do they add multiple pieces to their roster? Is it having several early draft picks? Or is it the value at which players are drafted?
How can a team win free agency? Signing the biggest name available, or resigning their best players to long-term deals. Some teams do not need to sign the biggest available free agent, while others are desperate to sign any talent they will overspend on a player.
If all the questionable moves and second-guessed draft picks lead to raising the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season, few questions can be asked. But few franchises can afford to attack the draft and free agency in earnest.
The Kansas City Chiefs happen to be one of those franchises right now. The salary cap was in our favor and we have enough cornerstone pieces we could afford to be picky with our free-agent signings. With Brett Veech the draft is always in play and we had 12 picks this year. The other franchise with that much draft capital was the Jacksonville Jaguars and they aren’t in the same tier as the Chiefs right now.
The Chiefs were also able to make some big free agent signings in Safety Justin Reid and Wide Receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Last year the Chiefs prioritized free agency over draft picks trading their first-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for a franchise Left Tackle in Orlando Brown Jr. The Los Angeles Rams were at the pinnacle of the veterans over draft picks trading away most of their picks for Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford, and Von Miller. All that led to a Super Bowl Victory Parade and a boatload of Les Snead saying “F*** Them Picks”. They were in win-now mode and didn’t have a draft pick until the third round. Will that work for their future? Is Matthew Stafford the long-term answer for that franchise? Maybe.
The New England Patriots have longed to use the draft, down-on-their-luck veterans to bolster their roster. After losing Quarterback Tom Brady, and having one losing season, the Patriots made it back into the playoffs with rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
The Kansas City Chiefs have their franchise quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and build around him in different ways. After trading away all-world talent wide receiver Tyreek Hill the Chiefs signaled to the world they were going to use a different approach to surrounding him with talent. While they drafted speedy and technically savvy wide receiver Skyy Moore, they also signed Juju and MVS.
Using that same technique they addressed the defense adding cornerback Trent McDuffie and Edge George Karlaftis adding youth and athleticism to the defense. The Chiefs may have won the draft this year adding so much talent and depth to a much-maligned side of the ball.
In drafts passed we’ve used it to address holes or depth issues. Mecole Hardman, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and L’Jarius Sneed were not picks of need, but depth picks. Now those are our #1 WR, RB, and CB. The draft has allowed us to add depth and be more flexible on our roster. Without Mecole Hardman the Chiefs might not have been able to trade Tyreek Hill and acquire McDuffie or Karlaftis.
So while we know what Juju Smith Schuster, Justin Reid, and MVS can give us at this level and provide us enough talent they are low risk. While draft picks can be high reward, they can be a Trey Smith, or a Breeland Speaks. Draft picks involve a kind of lottery with risk.
The Kansas City Chiefs are in an enviable situation. They can attack free agency and the draft because they have built their roster well and managed their cap space magically. And we have the luxury of watching the greatest draft pick in Chiefs history take this latest offseason group and pull some Mahomes Magic.