The conclusion of the NFL Draft often brings about a swarm of moves, as teams around the league continue their ongoing effort to find a diamond in the rough among the throng of undrafted players.
The Chiefs continued their annual effort this time of year, as they agreed to deals with Florida State linebacker Terrence Smith, Vanderbilt offensive guard Jake Bernstein and Mount Union cornerback Tre Jones as priority undrafted free agents, sources told The Star.
Meanwhile, Brett Tessler, the agent for Brigham Young receiver Mitch Mathews, tweeted that his client signed with the Chiefs despite offers from “many” other teams because he likes the opportunity, and while Southern Methodist announced that safety/linebacker Shakiel Randolph also signed with the Chiefs.
The Chiefs also invited a number of players to the team’s rookie minicamp, which starts Saturday and ends May 9.
That list includes Montana linebacker Herbert Gamboa, Citadel receiver Brandon Eakins, Iowa kicker Jordan Canzeri, SUNY Cortland defensive lineman Jake Ceresna and South Dakota linebacker Keyen Lage, sources told The Star. Fresno State also announced that long snapper Dylan Detwiler has earned a rookie-camp invite, as well.
The difference between a priority free agent and a rookie camp invite is that priority free agents receive contracts — and thus, money in the form of a small signing bonus — while tryout players aren’t guaranteed anything. That often gives priority free agents a better shot to make the team, since the club has already invested some money into them.
That’s part of the reason players sometimes back out of these agreements around this time of year, as well. If another team comes along and offers players a deal, it often makes sense for them to sign it and earn some money, given the tenuous nature of rookie-tryout invites.
This actually happened to the Chiefs last year, when Stony Brook tight end Will Tye agreed to attend their rookie minicamp after the draft, but backed out once the Giants offered him a contract. Tye went on to post a solid rookie season for the Giants, catching 42 passes for 464 yards and three touchdowns.
Still, the Chiefs managed to bring in a nice crop of undrafted rookies last year. Among the Chiefs’ priority free agents from last year’s draft who made it through organized team activities and opened training camp with the team were receiver Kenny Cook, long snapper Andrew East and linebacker Justin March. Center Daniel Munyer took the toughest road of all them, as he went from being a rookie tryout player to earning a camp invite.
And of those four, three — Cook, March and Munyer — are currently on the 90-man offseason roster, and could have a chance to once again compete for positions during organized team activities, which start up this month.
Fisher deadline looms — The Chiefs have until Monday to execute their fifth-year option on tackle Eric Fisher, which should approach $12 million for 2017. The option is guaranteed for injury, which means he’d get it automatically if he were to be seriously hurt in 2016.
If Fisher doesn’t get hurt this season but fails to live up to the team’s expectations this fall, the Chiefs could cut him at any time before the first day of the new league year in March 2017 and eliminate his cap charge completely.
Fisher, the No. 1 pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, is projected to be the Chiefs’ starting left tackle in 2016. Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manger John Dorsey said Fisher, who dealt with injuries and uneven play early in his career, came on strong toward the end of last season.
Chiefs defend Hill pick — For the three-plus years they’ve been in Kansas City, Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey have consistently stated their desire to find high-character players who love football. They have said this time and time again, over and over.
But on Saturday, at about 2:14 p.m., the Chiefs used a fifth-round draft pick to select a dynamic return man with a history that runs counter to all that.
The Chiefs used the 165th overall pick to select West Alabama receiver Tyreek Hill, who was kicked off Oklahoma State’s team on Dec. 12, 2014, after he was arrested and accused of punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend.
Hill eventually pleaded guilty Aug. 21, 2015, to domestic abuse by strangulation. He was sentenced to three years’ probation — which ends Aug. 15, 2018 — and also was fined $500 plus fees and ordered to pay $263.14 in restitution.
The Chiefs were aware of the incident, but that didn’t deter them from selecting Hill, who transferred to West Alabama and appeared in 11 games in 2015 before blazing a 4.25-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in March.
The decision thrust the Chiefs into the conversation about the sincerity of the NFL’s efforts to prevent and discourage domestic violence. Both Greg Hardy and Ray Rice, two players who have been thrust into the spotlight because of domestic violence issues in their personal lives, are currently unsigned.
Fan reaction to the move — which comes four years after the Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and committed suicide in the parking lot of the team training facility — was fast and swift, as fans flooded the franchise’s Twitter account with negative replies following the announcement of the pick.
And in an unusual move, Dorsey met with reporters Saturday evening — he normally waits until Monday after the draft for his final press conference — to discuss Hill’s selection, along with Reid, and attempted to ease concerns.
“I just want everybody to understand that we have done our due diligence with regards to full vetting each one of our draft-class members,” said Dorsey, who added that he had “long discussions” with Reid and Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt before making the selection. “We would never put anybody in this community in harm’s way.”
Reid agreed, reiterating that the organization has “done its homework” on Hill and asking fans to essentially give them the benefit of the doubt, since they say they can’t publicly discuss whatever details they were able to dig up about Hill’s case.
“There has to be a certain trust here, but there’s just things that we can’t go into and go through,” Reid said. “We want people to understand, like Dorse said, we’re not going to do anything to put this community or this organization in a bind.
“We uncovered every possible stone that we possibly could, and we feel very comfortable with that part of it.”
Terez A. Paylor: @TerezPaylor