Nick Jacobs: Chiefs free agents to re-sign, move on from for 2021

Sammy Watkins
Posted at 5:32 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 18:32:33-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Free agency could see a lot more roster turnover for the Chiefs in 2021.

There are a lot of players from the last few seasons likely to become former members of Kansas City's squad in the weeks ahead.

The Chiefs have 17 unrestricted free agents, one contract that voids, six restricted free agents and two exclusive rights free agents. There's also lingering uncertainty about the 2021 salary cap, which complicates some of the team's decisions.

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Analyst Nick Jacobs, who co-hosts the "4th & 1" podcast, explains who he thinks Kansas City should keep and who the team should move on from as it prepares to try and win the AFC West for a sixth straight season and vies for a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

Unrestricted free agents — Retain

1. DE Taco Charlton
The Chiefs need to enhance their pass-rush rotation this offseason and Charlton returning from his ankle injury could allow them to do just that on a prove-it deal.

The defensive line lost a jolt when Charlton was injured and the team never recovered from it. He projects to be a solid rotational rusher on a minimal deal.

2. OL Kelechi Osemele
Osemele turns 32 this season and is coming off surgeries to both knees, but he is worth investing a short-term, minimal-risk deal on. Osemele brought strength and attitude to the offensive line.

If he can fully heal from his injury, Osemele is worth the investment.

3. RT Mike Remmers
Remmers is a solid right guard and starting right tackle. He has the foot quickness to hold down at the right tackle position but struggles on the left side.

He would be good veteran depth to retain at a similar price as last year, especially after proving he's capable of playing right tackle when needed.

4. CB Bashaud Breeland
This would have to be at a rate around or below $7.5 million per year probably, because of his physical press style leads to holding penalties.

This also is one of Breeland’s last opportunities to get a significant pay day before he hits 30, but he has been a reliable starter at the right price the last few years unless the team wants L’Jarius Sneed to replace his spot.

5. S Daniel Sorensen
Sorensen has been a reliable safety for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, especially in sub-packages down in the box. The team needs to make this possible resigning at minimum cost, because he's been overpaid the past few years as a role player.

6. FB Anthony Sherman
Sherman provides the team a good leader and great special teams performer. His play has not fallen off and he doesn’t appear to be interested in breaking the bank.

Unrestricted free agents — Move on

7. WR Sammy Watkins
It seems like the time has come to move on Watkins, whose injury struggles have become a consistent problem.

They could be tolerated because of his presence and performance in the postseason, which unfortunately didn’t happen last season when Kansas City needed him the most. It is time for an upgrade at the position, at least in terms of durability and availability.

8. LB Damien Wilson
Wilson was a solid performer at the strong-side, or "Sam," linebacker position.

Unfortunately, he is a liability in coverage and teams have exploited that at times. The Chiefs likely need to get quicker and cheaper at this position.

9. C Austin Reiter
The Chiefs need significant upgrades along the entire offensive line. Reiter doesn’t provide the ability they need to secure the pocket, face nose tackles one-on-one, or knock defenders off the ball.

10. WR Demarcus Robinson
Robinson has been a reliable special teams performer and blocker on the perimeter. Outside of one or two big games each season, he has minimal impact on the passing offense, though.

Robinson's spot is another that the Chiefs likely need to upgrade so the offense can evolve.

11. DE Alex Okafor
Okafor provided the team a reliable rotational pass rusher when healthy, but he struggled against the run.

His contract was restricted last season so he could hit the market. It is time to let him explore a new opportunity.

12. DE Tanoh Kpassagnon
Kpassagnon seemed to lose some of his fluidity this year, which adversely impacted his ability to change direction and accelerate.

He also lacked the ability to provide a stout presence against the run, so it's another spot that could use an upgrade.

13. DT Mike Pennel
Pennel was crucial for the Chiefs as a run defender during their Super Bowl LIV title run. Unfortunately, he did not provide the same presence last season and provides little impact as an interior pass rusher.

14. LG Stefen Wisniewski
Wisniewski was unable to capture lightning in a bottle the second time around with the Chiefs.

His ideal spot is at left guard when he is healthy, but he appeared to struggle after re-signing with the Chiefs as he tried to come back from a pectoral injury earlier this season.

15. RB Le’Veon Bell
Bell was never the most explosive back in the league, but he did have uncommon vision and acceleration during his time with the Steelers. He now lacks that burst and is very dependent on the ability of his offensive line.

Bell was a good bridge for Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams, who has recovered from his injury enough that keeping Bell around may no longer be warranted.

16. CB Antonio Hamilton
Hamilton didn’t stand out on special teams and struggled at the corner position when called into action. The team likely needs to give those reps to BoPete Keyes, a rookie late-round pick in 2020.

17. C Daniel Kilgore
Kilgore was unable to force his way onto the field during the second half of the season when the team needed help. That doesn’t bode well for his future with the team.

18. TE Ricky Seals-Jones
The Chiefs needed an athletic presence to pair with All-Pro Travis Kelce as the second tight end. Seals-Jones was never able to upend Nick Keizer and found himself inactive most of the season.

Restricted free agents — Retain

19. RB Darrel Williams
Williams provided a reliable power running back who got stronger as the season went along.

After regained his pre-injury form toward the end of the season, Williams is worth placing a tender on and bringing back.

20. WR Byron Pringle
Pringle could still develop into a fourth or fifth option at receiver, but his inability to gain a bigger role in offense during Watkins' absence is concerning.

21. CB Charvarius Ward
Ward had his ups and downs this season, but he is 25 years old and, at minimum, provides solid depth. It is worth placing a tender on him.

Restricted free agents — Move on

22. LB Ben Niemann
Niemann routinely got picked on by opponents with their tight ends and running backs depending on the coverages. He lacks the ideal athletic ability and routinely got blocked out of plays in the run.

23. LG Andrew Wylie
Wylie struggled at every position this season and can’t play tackle in the NFL. He is exclusively a guard, routinely gets beat on his inside shoulder, and needs help with double teams to knock defenders off the ball.

24. TE Deon Yelder
Yelder has been given the ideal time to develop at the position, but there just isn’t enough there to work with long term.

Exclusive rights free agents

25. TE Nick Keizer
The Chiefs will likely place a tender on Keizer. He can be a serviceable third tight end and a solid special teams performer.

26. CB Alex Brown
It is worth seeing how Brown can recover from his knee injury and if he can regain his form. There isn’t a ton of investment that needs to be made here other than retaining his rights at veteran minimum.