Free-Agent Contracts Chiefs Must Consider Before Training Camp
The Kansas City Chiefs' quest for a third AFC title and a second Super Bowl championship in a span of four seasons begins July 27. That's when the team will report to training camp and begin preparing for the 2022 campaign.
Even though the Chiefs are expected to again be a top team this season, they'll need to have success without several key contributors from recent years. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins, while safety Tyrann Mathieu signed with the New Orleans Saints.
Kansas City signed some free agents to help fill those holes, such as wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and safety Justin Reid. But it will also be relying on some young players, including its rookie class, to step up and help move the team forward.
However, there are still some holes on the Chiefs' roster, even with the start of camp a little more than two weeks away. So they may want to consider a late free-agent signing or two before that time arrives.
Here's a look at several players who Kansas City may still want to pursue this summer.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
Earlier this year, Frank Clark reworked his contract in order to stay in Kansas City, and he'll continue to be one of the team's starting defensive ends. On the other side, the Chiefs will immediately be relying on rookie George Karlaftis, who they selected with the No. 30 overall pick in the first round of the draft.
But what if Karlaftis experiences growing pains? Kansas City doesn't have much depth on the edges, so it could be in trouble if either Karlaftis struggles a bit at first or if he and/or Clark gets injured. That's why the Chiefs should still be pursuing a veteran defensive end on the free-agent market, especially with some solid players still available.
One of the best remaining pass-rushers is Jason Pierre-Paul, who spent the past four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although he's 33 and recorded only 2.5 sacks (his fewest since 2015) in 12 games last season, he could still make an impact as a rotational player who could split time with Karlaftis early in the rookie's career.
Pierre-Paul may no longer be the type of defender who can register double-digit sacks in a season, but he can still provide a strong veteran presence on the edge. And that's something that Kansas City's defense could use and may take the pass-rushing unit to another level.
Carlos Dunlap, DE
If the Chiefs don't want to sign Pierre-Paul (whether that's because of price or fit) or they miss out on him, there are other veteran pass-rushers for them to pursue on the free-agent market. That group includes Carlos Dunlap, who is also 33 and in the later stages of his career.
Dunlap mostly filled a reserve role last season for the Seattle Seahawks, as he made only two starts. But he played in all 17 games, marking the first time since the 2018 campaign that he didn't miss any action.
Even though Dunlap didn't start much in 2021, he was a valuable rotational player. He recorded 35 tackles, 8.5 sacks and one forced fumble, proving that he can still make an impact and be a strong contributor to a defense.
Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus reported late last month that Dunlap had "received interest on the open market and is deciding on the best fit." It's hard to imagine he wouldn't want to join the Chiefs, a top AFC contender, as long as they were among the teams that had shown interest in him.
Julio Jones, WR
Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling are high-potential wide receivers who could potentially put up career-best numbers while catching passes from quarterback Patrick Mahomes during their first season in Kansas City. Plus, the Chiefs have rookie Skyy Moore, a second-round draft pick who could quickly make an impact in the NFL.
But there's quite a bit more uncertainty surrounding Kansas City's receiving corps than when Hill was atop the depth chart. Tight end Travis Kelce will continue to be one of Mahomes' favorite (and best) targets, but the Chiefs may not have any top-tier playmakers on the outside, especially if Smith-Schuster doesn't have a bounce-back year.
So why not take a chance on Julio Jones, who was once among the NFL's top wide receivers? The 33-year-old didn't make much of an impact in his lone season with the Tennessee Titans in 2021, recording 31 catches for 434 yards and one touchdown in 10 games. But he may still have some left in the tank, which he'll be looking to prove in 2022.
There seems like no better way to potentially get Jones back on track than to pair him with an elite quarterback like Mahomes. And at this point, Kansas City could potentially sign Jones at a low price. It's a low-risk, high-reward chance the Chiefs should be willing to take.