The Kansas City Chiefs hadn’t had much roster turnover in recent years, a stretch during which they’ve been one of the top teams in the AFC and a consistent Super Bowl contender. But this summer, they’re coming to training camp missing some notable names from past seasons.
Tyreek Hill is no longer the clear No. 1 wide receiver after getting traded to the Miami Dolphins. Tyrann Mathieu won’t be roaming the secondary, as the safety signed with the New Orleans Saints. Others such as edge rusher Melvin Ingram (Dolphins) and cornerback Charvarius Ward (San Francisco 49ers) have new teams as well.
Although the Chiefs filled some of those voids with proven players, other spots will be up for grabs during training camp, which fully gets underway on July 27. There will be plenty of opportunities for unproven players to step up and seize playing time for 2022.
Meanwhile, there will inevitably be some players on the roster bubble. They won’t just be competing for time on the field. They’ll be battling for spots on the 53-man roster for Week 1 of the regular season.
Here’s a look at several Kansas City players who need to have strong showings this summer to avoid being in jeopardy of getting cut at the end of camp.
Josh Gordon was reinstated by the NFL last September following an indefinite suspension for violations of the league’s substance abuse and performance-enhancing substance policies. He then signed with the Chiefs, who gave him an opportunity for a fresh start.
Gordon ended up playing 12 games for Kansas City, but he wasn’t a huge contributor on offense. He had five catches for 32 yards and one touchdown. However, there was once a point when Gordon was one of the top receivers in the NFL.
Now 31, could Gordon potentially play similar to that form in 2022, after getting reacclimatised to the league last season? He may need to get closer to that level if he’s even going to make the Chiefs’ roster, because there’s a crowded mix at wide receiver, even after Hill’s departure.
Kansas City signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency, drafted Skyy Moore in the second round, brought in Justyn Ross as a high-ceiling undrafted free agent and returns Mecole Hardman and Cornell Powell.
It’s quite possible Gordon has a strong camp and solidifies a roster spot. But if he doesn’t, then he could be in some jeopardy, especially because the Chiefs will need some of their lower-tier receivers to contribute on special teams. But if Gordon performs the way he’s capable of, he may not be in any danger.
Deandre Baker didn’t make much of an impact during his first season with the Chiefs in 2020, playing in only two games. But he got more time on the field last year, when he recorded 16 tackles in eight games, which included making a Week 4 start against the Philadelphia Eagles.
It wasn’t the largest sample size of work, but Baker did well enough to receive a qualifying contract from Kansas City earlier this offseason, which he signed as an exclusive rights free agent. That doesn’t guarantee him a spot on the Chiefs’ 2022 roster, though, which is something Baker will have to earn in camp.
Kansas City replenished its cornerback group during the 2022 draft, adding Trent McDuffie (first round), Joshua Williams (fourth) and Jaylen Watson (seventh). McDuffie has a good chance of being a Week 1 starter alongside the returning L’Jarius Sneed. The Chiefs also return Rashad Fenton and acquired Lonnie Johnson Jr. in a trade with the Houston Texans.
It’s a crowded mix, and there will be quite a few corners needing to stand out in order to secure a roster spot. Baker doesn’t have a proven track record, so he’ll be among that group. If a bunch of rookies perform well and others take up spots, Baker could be on the roster bubble later in camp.
In March, the Chiefs needed to add safeties, as it was one of their thinnest defensive position groups at the time. Not only did they sign Justin Reid to fill the starting spot vacated by Mathieu, but they also brought in Deon Bush for depth.
Kansas City didn’t stop acquiring safeties, though, as it used its second-round draft pick on Bryan Cook and its seventh-round selection on Nazeeh Johnson. So now there’s actually going to be some competitions for roster spots at the back of the secondary.
Bush is 28 and possesses more experience than the youngsters in the safeties group. He played at least 11 games in each of the past six seasons with the Chicago Bears, and he set career highs in tackles (40) and interceptions (two) over 14 games in 2021.
But if Bush struggles in camp, it’s not a given he’ll make the Chiefs’ roster, especially with the pair of rookies who perhaps could better justify keeping on the team. Bush will need to prove that he can be a valuable contributor in his first year with Kansas City in 2022.
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