By Quentin Morris
With JuJu Smith-Schuster bolting the Chiefs for greener pastures in New England, should Kansas City dip into the free agency market or wait for the NFL Draft?
Their biggest problem is that they are running out of big players in free agency in a class that is already slim. Plus picking at 31 in the draft they will not be able to get top picks like TCU’s Quentin Johnston. One thing that is different from last off-season’s wide receiver room is that Kansas City has fewer positions to fill.
During the 2022 free-agent period Kansas City traded away a top wide receiver in Tyreek Hill. He was clearly the number one guy in the system with little help on the back end. Kansas City hit the free agent market to sign both Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. They would also bring in Skyy Moore and trade for Kadarius Toney before the trade deadline. Smith-Schuster is the only guy to leave the room. While the Chiefs need to replace his production, they are not as desperate as they were last year but they still need to make a move because Smith-Schuster filled an important role for Kansas City. He put up nearly 80 receptions and almost 1,000 yards. The Chiefs need to refill that roll. There are four guys left in free agency that could fill that role.
In free agency, the biggest names are off the board. Within the first three days of free agency Allen Lazard moved to the Jets, Jakobi Meyers reunited with Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas and Juju Smith-Schuster left for New England.
DJ Chark from Detroit. Under Detroit’s offense, a team that had a good offensive year, Chark had 502 yards and three touchdowns. While on paper Smith-Schuster had almost double the yards Chark did Smith-Schuster had more than double the receptions. If the Chiefs go after Chark he would become the third receiving option here in Kansas City after Travis Kelce and Toney.
Parris Cambell is another player the Chiefs could be looking at. Campbell is a 25-year-old player out of Indianapolis. Campbell did produce fewer receiving yards per reception than Smith-Schuster but as previously stated he does not need to be the main wide receiver in this system. Campbell could be the slot guy they are looking for.
Odell Beckham Jr. has been a hot name over the past calendar year for most teams in the NFL. He is coming off of a blown ACL in the Rams and Bengals Super Bowl two years ago. He continues to host workouts and conversations with multiple teams but his health and potential contract continues to keep teams hesitant to sign him. If he is healthy and able to sign a reasonable contract Kansas City could be a spot for him.
The final guy to look at is Mecole Hardman. Hardman coming back seems like a long shot but becomes more realistic as free agency continues. Hardman knows the offense and teams seem to be hesitant to bring him in. This could be due to his injury sustained during the year. The Chiefs were not open with the injury Hardman had called it both a hip and abdomen. He did play in the AFC Championship game but re-injured his hip.
The biggest name on the trade market is Arizona’s, DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins would cost picks and potentially a new contract. Hopkins does seem to still have some left in the tank and if you could get him in Kansas City would fit the offense. However, investing draft assets and money makes this more of a long shot.
In terms of the draft unless Kansas City jumps up in the early teens none of the top prospects will wear the red and gold next season. One of the guys that could end up in KC is Josh Downs out of North Carolina. Downs is a perfect fit inside the slot and over the middle possession receiver, the Chiefs are looking for. Downs is a quick player with good footwork. He has a chance to keep safeties back when playing man coverage. His ability to cut and run routes is an advantage coming into the NFL. He has shown the ability to catch over-the-top balls and the ability to catch throws over the top of defenders’ helmets. He could also be the Chiefs next punt returner.
His biggest disadvantage and reason he could slide in the draft is his size. Downs officially came in weighing 171 pounds and was exactly 5 feet 9 inches. If he goes up against physical corners that will give him problems. He will also struggle with run blocking.