Chiefs offseason free agent signings and roster moves
Update March 22, 12 p.m.: The Sausage is back.
The Chiefs are bringing back free agent Anthony Sherman, a source confirmed to the Star.
The versatile fullback and special teams standout has been with the Chiefs since 2013, arriving via trade from Arizona. Earlier this year he made his first Pro Bowl appearance.
He opened up the 2018 season with a 36-yard touchdown on a wheel route against the Chargers. That was his only touchdown of the season, but his impact on the team isn’t quantified in the stat line.
He’s a mainstay on special teams and was often used as a lead blocker for running backs like Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware and Kareem Hunt.
“He’s a great leader on and off the field, a great husband, friend,” Ware said earlier this season. “He’s one of them people that you just need in your locker room. He’s just knows what he’s doing. You can turn on the tape, and he makes plays. He’s all around the ball. A person that plays like that, there always has to be a spot. He’s our meathead of the team. Every team needs a meathead.”
Update March 21, 3 p.m.: Two former Chiefs have new homes.
Linebacker Justin Houston and offensive lineman Jordan Devey have signed with new teams. Per Adam Schefter, Houston is signing a two-year, $24 million million contract with the Indianapolis Colts, while Devey is heading to the Oakland Raiders.
Houston was released by the Chiefs a week and a half ago, saving the club $14 million in cap space. He’s played only for the Chiefs since being taken by the team in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He signed a six-year, $101 million deal with the Chiefs in 2015.
The Chiefs shopped Houston at the NFL Combine but were unable to find a favorable trade for the aging pass-rusher with a steep price tag despite his nine-sack season in 2018. Houston will return to Kansas City this fall as the Chiefs are set to host the Colts in the 2019 regular season.
Devey, the other former Chief to sign elsewhere Thursday, would’ve given the Chiefs depth on the offensive line next season. He saw limited playing time last regular season but was a solid, if temporary, replacement for Mitch Morse when Morse, then the Chiefs’ starting center, went down with a concussion against the New England Patriots. But Devey suffered a torn pectoral muscle the next game against the Cincinnati Bengals and finished the season on the injured reserve list. Morse recently signed with the Buffalo Bills as a free agent.
The Chiefs kicked off the second week of NFL free agency with a bit of a surprise signing when they signed cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a one-year deal worth a maximum of $5 million. It’s not much of a shock to see the Chiefs address need at that position, but Breeland’s name was a blast from the not-so-distant past.
Remember his well-publicized visit during last summer’s training camp in St. Joe?
Back then, Breeland was looking for a multiyear deal just a few months after his significant contract with the Carolina Panthers was voided due to a failed physical. After a shortened season with the Green Bay Packers, though, Breeland apparently adjusted the terms he sought less than a year ago.
So what’s left for the Chiefs in free agency?
They’ve addressed some major needs, specifically in the secondary. They’ve also lost a handful of free agents, particularly on the offensive side.
Here’s a rundown of the Chiefs’ revolving door in the last week, and what it means for their future.
Who’s in: Free agents Chiefs have signed/extended
Carlos Hyde, running back: one year/$2.8 million
What it means: The addition of Hyde gives the Chiefs a little more depth in the backfield. They enter the 2019 season with running backs Damien Williams, Darrel Williams and Hyde under contract. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West are both free agents. Damien Williams was a breakout performer after Kareem Hunt’s release, but adding Hyde gives the Chiefs more insurance at the position.
Tyrann Mathieu, safety: three years/ $42 million
What it means: The Chiefs are going all-in on their defensive rebuild, both schematically and emotionally. Mathieu, called the “catalyst” by GM Brett Veach was the first major move toward this end. He’ll most likely start at free safety. He’ll be a centerfielder in the defense, handling threats in the middle of the field — an area that lacked a consistent defender last year. But given his versatility, Mathieu could also be tapped to play strong safety. At 26, Mathieu is one of the NFL’s younger stars. He’s at the core of the young group of players the Chiefs’ brass is using as the foundation for the future.
Damien Wilson, linebacker: two years/ $5.75 million
What it means: For one thing, it means we’re all going to have a confusing year trying to keep Damien Wilson, Damien Williams and Darrel Williams straight. But on the field, this signing was made to help form the revamped linebacking corps in Steve Spagnuolo’s 4-3 defense. Before Wilson’s signing, there wasn’t an obvious strongside linebacker on the roster. Wilson has experience playing that position from his time in Dallas, and he’ll enter the offseason as the projected starter. Along with Wilson, the other projected starters at linebacker are Reggie Ragland (MLB) and Anthony Hitchens (WLB).
Alex Okafor, defensive end: three years/$18 million
What it means: In releasing Justin Houston and trading Dee Ford, the Chiefs got rid of the bulk of their pass-rush production — 22 sacks — from last season. In making those deals, they put more trust in Chris Jones to generate the interior pressure. Adding Okafor won’t replace the production on the edge lost in the Houston and Ford moves. He had just four sacks with New Orleans last season, but he’s shown an ability to be strong in stopping the run — something the Chiefs desperately needed, as opponents averaged 5.0 yards per carry last season.
Bashaud Breeland, cornerback: one year/ $5 million
What it means: After signing Mathieu, the Chiefs’ biggest secondary need was at cornerback. With the departure of Steven Nelson in free agency, the Chiefs needed another starting-caliber cornerback with veteran experience. Breeland, 27, fits the bill. He joins a group that also includes Kendall Fuller, Charvarius Ward and Tremon Smith. Fuller is the only guaranteed starter in the group, but Breeland should be in the mix. He had two interceptions, 20 tackles and four pass breakups in seven games with the Packers.
Who’s in: Free agents tendered
Jordan Lucas, safety
Harrison Butker, kicker
Justin Hamilton, defensive lineman
Marcus Kemp, wide receiver
What it means: The Chiefs are big fans of the Lucas locomotive. A late addition to the team during last preseason, Lucas worked his way from a special teams player to a role player on the defense. By tendering Lucas, the Chiefs signal that he’s an important piece of the secondary going forward. The Chiefs also like Butker, Hamilton and Kemp enough to keep them around, as reported by Matt Derrick of Chiefs Digest. And because they’re playing on inexpensive contracts, they’re low-risk players to retain. Kemp has been crucial on special teams, while Butker has been a mostly consistent kicker through his two seasons. And Hamilton provides depth on the defensive line and is a good option in stopping the run game.
Who’s out: Traded or released/designated as post-June 1 cut
Eric Berry, safety: released, designated post June-1 cut
What it means: After getting just three regular-season games from Berry in two seasons, the Chiefs finally decided to move on from the 30-year-old safety. Releasing Berry leaves the Chiefs with a significant amount of dead money, but by designating him as a post June-1 cut, the club splits the cap hit hit over two seasons. In releasing him and signing Mathieu, the Chiefs signaled a desire to change the culture of the club. They’re infusing the defense with a younger leader. Berry reportedly visited the Cowboys on Tuesday.
Justin Houston, OLB, released, Indianapolis Colts
What it means: Much like Berry, Houston’s release was a part of the team’s defensive and cultural overhaul. Though Houston would’ve fit in Spagnuolo’s defense as an end, the Chiefs chose to save a significant amount of cap space by releasing the veteran linebacker. He was coming off a solid season, but his contract was too expensive to keep around. Instead, the Chiefs are going younger and cheaper at the position and focusing more of their resources on bolstering the secondary. Houston reportedly signed a two-year, $24 million deal with the Colts on Thursday.
Dee Ford, OLB, traded to 49ers for 2020 second-round pick
What it means: In trading Ford, the Chiefs freed up cap space and earned some draft capital. Like Houston, there was a spot for Ford in Spagnuolo’s defense. But the fact is the Chiefs didn’t want to pay the more than $15 million Ford’s franchise tag required. Instead, Ford will play defensive end in the San Francisco 49ers’ 4-3 scheme, a position that plays most like a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
Who’s out: Players who signed elsewhere in free agency
Mitch Morse, center: Buffalo
What it means: The Chiefs let Morse walk, signaling their confidence in young center Austin Reiter. While Morse becomes the highest-paid center in the NFL thanks to a four-year, $44.5 million deal in Buffalo, the Chiefs are turning the keys of the offensive line over to Reiter, who started four games in 2018 when Morse was out with a concussion. Morse had injuries in each of the last two years that kept him from playing complete seasons, but he was one of the glue guys on the line and in the locker room. The Chiefs will miss his leadership but feel Reiter is more than capable of filling his role on the field.
Chris Conley, wide receiver: Jacksonville
What it means: Conley’s departure to the Jacksonville Jaguars cuts into the Chiefs’ depth at wide receiver. Conley was largely overshadowed by other Chiefs offensive weapons, like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt, during his tenure here. But he was responsible for a career-high five touchdowns last season. His signing with Jacksonville could end up being even more impactful, depending on the outcome of the battery investigation involving Tyreek Hill. In Conley’s absence, Demarcus Robinson will likely have a bigger role in the offense next season, and the Chiefs will look to add a receiver in the draft.
Demetrius Harris, tight end: Cleveland
What it means: Deon Yelder moves up the depth chart with Harris’ departure, but the Chiefs will likely look to add a blocking tight end to their roster to complement Kelce. Though Harris was primarily used for his blocking ability in Kansas City, he was a big red-zone target.
Steven Nelson, cornerback: Pittsburgh
What it means: Nelson had a productive contract season, recording four interceptions, and cashed in with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His departure leaves the Chiefs without a starting corner, but signing Breeland fills that void.
Who’s out: Chiefs free agents not tendered, or signed elsewhere
Alex Ellis, tight end
Terrence Smith, linebacker
Jordan Devey, center - signed with Oakland
Unsigned Chiefs free agents
Jeff Allen, guard
Allen Bailey, defensive end
Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver
Orlando Scandrick, cornerback
Anthony Sherman, fullback
De’Anthony Thomas, wide receiver
Spencer Ware, running back
Charcandrick West, running back
Frank Zombo, linebacker