KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs' 2021 season is now in the rear-view mirror, including a rare postseason disappointment for the Patrick Mahomes era.
With an eye toward 2022, there are several position the team must address in hopes of returning to the Super Bowl next season, when Super Bowl LVII will be played in Glendale, Arizona.
The 2022 offseason will to be about helping Mahomes enter his sixth season with less weight on his shoulders.
Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach will likely need to construct a roster that puts additional weapons on the offenss and simultaneously rebuild a pass rush and secondary that can force turnovers, limiting opponents' possessions and handing the ball back to an explosive offense.
The Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers and the rest of the AFC west are building offenses that can match Mahomes or create a multitude of mismatches against the Chiefs' defense.
Kansas City will have to counter with the ability to match point-for-point and steal possessions away from its opponents. Here are the key positions of need for the Chiefs entering the 2022 offseason:
1. Left tackle
The Chiefs need to protect their half a billion-dollar man (Mahomes) at all costs. Left tackle is the most important investment the Chiefs can make after the quarterback position.
Orlando Brown Jr. is entering free agency, but the Chiefs will have the opportunity to tag him or reach a long-term deal.
2. Possession wide receiver
Kansas City needs a physical receiver who can work inside of 15 yards and over the middle to open the offense for Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
The team lost that with the departure of Sammy Watkins, so the Chiefs need to add a reliable veteran receiver who can either take advantage of one-on-ones or be the difference-maker when the offense is sputtering to keep favorable down and distances.
3. Edge rushers
The team needs to add multiple edge rushers to the roster, probably including a new veteran presence to potentially pair with youthful pass-rushers the club is attempting to develop.
Kansas City will have to find a premiere rush off the blind side and additional rotational rushers who can contribute 20-plus snaps per game.
4. Interior rushers
Defensive tackle Chris Jones needs additional help on the inside at the one-tech position, a player who commands double teams to give Jones more one-on-one opportunities.
The Chiefs also would benefit from adding a rotational three-tech who can give Jones some breaks.
The safety position is arguably the biggest need in the secondary.
When Tyrann Mathieu went down in the AFC Divisional round, the defense's performance showed that the cupboard is bare.
The team will need to find starting help that has the range for both single-high coverage and two-deep shells and also needs additional depth that can help enhance the team's versatility in sub-packages.
The team must continually invest in the cornerback position.
Kansas City will need to continue to add a blend of premium athletic ability along with a good vertical to combat the jump-ball receivers that the premiere offenses are starting to add on their rosters.
7. Dynamic feature running back
The Chiefs seem to rely on a running back by committee. A blend of a power back, a strong zone runner and a good receiving back to go with it.
But Kansas City would benefit from having a consistently explosive feature back who can make defenses pay when they drop into eight-man coverage or keep two safeties high.
Jerick McKinnon gave fans a sneak peak of what the Chiefs could have around the corner in the playoffs, but the team will need a steady presence at the position.
8. Slot receiver
The team could use additional receiving help that can win one-on-one matchups inside.
A strong and savvy route-runner would be a big addition to help the offense, especially if the roster suffers some injuries along the way.
9. Will linebacker
The final primary need will be a weak-side linebacker to replace Nick Bolton, assuming he slides to middle linebacker.
This linebacker would ideally avoid blocks and be strong in man or zone coverage, possessing high athletic upside. It could potentially be a former strong safety who is a strong in run support.
The Chiefs could use additional depth at offensive tackle and perhaps a backup quarterback, but it's the above spots the team must address in free agency, potential trades and/or the draft to regain solid footing in the quest to return to the NFL mountain top.