KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach is in a tough spot right now.
The Chiefs are an estimated $269,569 under the salary cap as of Aug. 17.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones counts $28.291M against the salary cap during his current contract holdout.
Most teams prefer to have between $10M and $15M in cap space so they are agile enough to make additions and brace for unexpected injured reserve additions.
The defending Super Bowl champions appear to have strong depth across the roster.
The biggest question marks are at the backup three tech position at defensive tackle and an additional veteran edge rusher to cushion the six-game suspension of Charles Omenihu.
The Chiefs roster in my opinion is one of the stronger rosters from a talent, speed and depth perspective in the 13 years of attending training camp at Missouri Western State University.
Injuries at certain positions can derail a position, but most positions on the roster appear to be able to weather the storms of an NFL season. The analysis below is based on my 14 days at Chiefs training camp and a couple of days at organized team activities and minicamp.
On the roster: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert and Shane Buechele
Gabbert has the arm to minimize the drop off in play-calling if Mahomes is unable to complete a game. Gabbert still seems to be processing how to quickly read the defense and options based on Andy Reid’s scheme. Gabbert has a habit of going through a couple reads and then going to the check down. He has the physical ability to push the ball down the field.
Buechele has good athletic ability and likes to create on roll outs and outside of the pocket. His ability to use his legs like Alex Smith is what builds his confidence during a game. His problem is how often he gets caught staring down receiving options and defenders who are sitting in zone coverage jump on the routes with ease. I would personally let him clear waivers and put him on practice squad, but I don’t think the Chiefs will risk it.
Practice Squad Potential: Chris Oladokun
Oladokun is an athletic quarterback that shines when he takes off to run. His accuracy was off during camp and he can panic a bit at times and heave passes up that end up in interceptions. He appears to still be learning how to quickly decipher and adapt to the defense.
Running Backs (4)
On the roster: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and La’Mical Perine
Pacheco has been at Chiefs training camp since quarterbacks and rookies reported. He was involved in nearly 22 practices during camp. The veterans only had 19 of them. Pacheco has pushed himself to stay in condition despite not being able to get hit in drills.
McKinnon was able to get his work in, but not be overwhelmed in snaps.
Edwards-Helaire saw a rotation between the first and second team. He would be a good trade candidate for a team that needs a running back.
Perine appeared to leap frog Deneric Prince this week after the first preseason game. Perine has been a reliable pass protector throughout training camp.
Prince has struggled at times in pass protection. Prince will need some strong performances in preseason to surpass Perine.
Jerrion Ealy has speed worth continuing work to develop his other skills.
Practice squad potential: Deneric Prince and Jerrion Ealy
Wide Receiver (7)
On the roster: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore, Richie James, Justyn Ross, Rashee Rice and Justin Watson
Valdes-Scantling and Mahomes are slowly improving their timing on deep passes. Moore continues to build on the end to last season. He is slowly becoming more confident in the offense and what coverages he is reading. Moore showed reliable hands throughout camp.
James can stop on a dime and accelerate immediately in a different direction. He juked multiple defenders throughout training camp. James also was a reliable receiver that was fearlessly catching passes over the middle.
Ross earned his way onto the roster with his ability to consistently stack quality days together. He appeared lost at times during off-season activities, but he looked to have a better grasp when camp rolled around. The key for him will be limiting some of the drops on routine passes.
Rice will need time to develop in the scheme and won’t likely see his full compliment of snaps until midway through the season.
Rice has the size, catch radius and speed to compete and excel in the Chiefs scheme.
I anticipate that Nikko Remigio will end up on injured reserve with his shoulder injury. He was routinely stacking quality days together. He would have made it tough to waive him and expect him not to end up with Jacksonville, Washington or the New York Giants.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette could provide quality special teams depth. Kekoa Crawford showed effort and a vertical worthy of giving additional time to develop on the practice squad.
Cornell Powell’s lack of explosiveness became glaring with this group of wide receivers in front of him.
Injured Reserve: Nikko Remigio
Practice Squad Possibility: Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Kekoa Crawford
Out: Cornell Powell, Ty Scott and Ty Fryfogle
Tight Ends (3)
On the roster: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, and Matt Bushman
The tight end position was shaping up to be interesting throughout the camp. After the shoulder injury to Jody Fortson, the conversation altered to if the Chiefs could keep Bell and Bushman. Bushman has been a reliable receiver at training camp. His size and power to get upfield quickly are something the Chiefs have lacked from the group. Bell is still a solid blocking tight end but the Chiefs might be able to release him off the initial 53-man roster and re-sign him a day later if they need to get someone to return from injured reserve.
Blanton is a reliable blocking tight end and a steady presence if the Chiefs elected to move on from Bell.
Gathings showed enough promise to develop for the 2024 season. He just came in too late to make a maximum impact for the initial 2023 roster.
Release for a day and return the next day: Blake Bell
Practice Squad Possibility: Kendall Blanton and Izaiah Gathings
Already placed on IR: Jody Fortson
Offensive Line (9)
On the roster: Donovan Smith, Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, Jawaan Taylor, Wanya Morris, Nick Alegretti, Lucas Niang and Darian Kinnard
The Chiefs are set in their first seven or eight offensive linemen. The question for me is if they would like to keep Lucas Niang over Prince Tega-Wanogho. Both provide solid depth. Niang just has more playing experience. Both would likely make another NFL roster whether through trade or being waived.
Trade Potential: Prince Tega Wanogho
Practice Squad Possibility: Austin Reiter, Jerome Carvin and Mike Caliendo
Out: Jason Goodrich, Sebastian Gutierrez and Anderson Hardy
Defensive Line (9)
On the roster: Chris Jones, George Karlaftis, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Mike Danna, Derrick Nandi, Keondre Coburn, Malik Herring, Danny Shelton and BJ Thompson
This position group is the spot where the Chiefs could use roster additions at three tech defensive tackle and a veteran rotational defensive end to help with the loss of Charles Omenihu to suspension.
The biggest question is when Chris Jones returns.
Other questions include If BJ Thompson has done enough to replace Joshua Kaindoh on special teams. And what is the health of Tershawn Wharton’s knee?
Herring’s best quality is his versatility. He can rush at end, tackle and eat up snaps on special teams.
Six-Game Suspension: Charles Omenihu
Potential Injured Reserve Candidate: Tershawn Wharton
Practice Squad Possibility: Truman Jones and Phil Hoskins
Out: Joshua Kaindoh, Chris Williams and Daniel Wise
On the roster: Drue Tranquill, Nick Bolton, Willie Gay, Leo Chenal and Jack Cochrane
Tranquill provides so much versatility for the linebacker room. He is arguably their best coverage linebacker and their most complete linebacker overall.
Cochrane provides quality special teams value. Jones needs more time to develop. Olakunie Fatukasi came into camp too late for a realistic shot at the 53-man roster to start out the season.
Practice Squad Possibility: Cam Jones and Olakunie Fatukasi
Out: Cole Christiansen
On the roster: L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams and Nic Jones
The Chiefs cornerback situation will be interesting over the next couple of weeks.
The status of Sneed from his knee injury sustained early in camp and Jones fractured fingers leave the status of Hailassie and Boye-Doe a question mark for the active roster. The Chiefs have strong developmental depth in the secondary this season.
Jones is someone I could see making the initial 53-man roster and going onto injured reserve.
Practice Squad Potential: Kahlef Hailassie, Ekow Boye-Doe and Reese Taylor
Out: Dicaprio Bootle, Lamar Jackson and Duron Lowe
On the roster: Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Mike Edwards, Chamarri Conner and Deon Bush
The Chiefs safety room became pretty clear after Nazeeh Johnson sustained a knee injury. That put Deon Bush back on the roster.
Practice Squad Potential: Anthony Cook
Out: Isaiah Norman
On the roster: Harrison Butker, Tommy Townsend and James Winchester
The Chiefs have a reliable combination among their specialists.
All teams must reduce their rosters from 90 to 53 players on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
Waiver claim notifications will be announced on Aug. 30 after 11 a.m CT.
Practice squads of 16 players can be signed after the end of waiver claim notifications.