The new league year began Wednesday at 3 p.m., and free agents are now able to officially sign with teams. Here are my thoughts on today's NFL free-agent news.
4:08 p.m.: It's highly unlikely Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford — who had surgery on his back three months ago — would pass a physical, a source told The Star on Wednesday.
Analysis: That means Ford's $8.7 million cap number, which is guaranteed for injury, will likely stand in 2018 barring a surprise. The 26-year-old had surgery on his back near the end of the season, but is expected to have a six-month recovery. Barring any setbacks, that means Ford should be ready for training camp in mid-July. I expect the Chiefs to see the best of Ford this year, since he's slated to be an unrestricted free agent in March. That could easily mean another double-digit sack season.
3:48 p.m.: The Chiefs have put an original-round tender (sixth round) on defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches. They did not tender their other restricted free agents cornerback, Keith Baxter and linebacker Ramik Wilson.
Analysis: The Chiefs will now be able to match an free-agent offer Nunez-Roches can snag on the open market. If they opt not to do so, they'll get a sixth-round pick for the team that signs him. Nunez-Roches is a super-enthusiastic guy who is a great fourth d-lineman; they'll need his energy in 2018, I think. Wilson, who was taken two rounds before Nunez-Roches (fourth) in 2015, has had an up-and-down career with the Chiefs. I think a fresh start elsewhere would be good for him, and I think he should go to a 4-3 team as a run-and-chase "Will" backer.
3:12 p.m.: The terms for new Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins' new deal is in, and Watkins received a $21 million signing bonus in the three-year, $48 million deal. Watkins' first-year cap number will be about $8 million, approximately $19 million in 2019 and $21 million in 2020.
Analysis: Watkins is getting a ton of cash to be a Chief, and the structure of the deal should keep him here for at least two seasons. The Chiefs would have a negative cap hit if they release him next year, but they’d save nearly $7 million by doing it after the 2019 season, making this an expensive — but smart — short-term gamble for another top target for Patrick Mahomes, a young quarterback they absolutely must develop.
1:12 p.m.: The terms for new Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens' new deal are in, too. It's for five years and $45 million, with a $14 million signing bonus and $25 million in guarantees. There's also a first-year cap hit of approximately $3.6 million, along with a maximum of $500,000 per year in per-game bonuses starting in 2020. He'll also have a maximum of $200,000 in workout bonuses starting next season, and his base salaries of $790,000 in 2018 and $6.5 million are guaranteed.
Analysis: Hitchens, 25, gets a nice chunk of change — a guaranteed $25 million — while the Chiefs can get out of this before the 2021 season and save about $200,000 in cap room, making this three-year deal for them. If Hitchens gets released after three seasons, he'll still be able to command a nice deal elsewhere at only 28 years old.
12:28 p.m.: Fullback Anthony Sherman has received a one-year deal worth $2 million and incentives to remain with the Chiefs, a source told The Star.
Analysis: Smart move for the Chiefs, who hold on to a tough-guy special-teamer who gives the Chiefs some edge, knows the offense backwards and forwards and can play tight end in a pinch. Signing him is easier than drafting someone and training him to do all the things Sherman already can.
11:45 a.m.: Former Chiefs cornerback Terrance Mitchell has agreed to a three-year deal worth $12 million with the Cleveland Browns, a source confirmed to The Star.
Analysis: Former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey sees something in Mitchell, who was benched last November because he wasn’t always where he was supposed to be but has some legitimate ball skills and finished second on the team in interceptions, with four. I like Mitchell, and I think this is a good signing for Cleveland, but given the Chiefs’ cap situation, I’m not surprised the Chiefs weren’t able to retain him.
11:36 a.m.: The Chiefs re-signed defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins, his agent announced on Twitter.
Analysis: Solid re-signing. Jenkins, 29, is a dependable player and a great locker-room guy. He recorded nine tackles and a sack last season as a rotational piece.
9:30 a.m.: Former Chiefs center Zach Fulton is expected to sign a free-agent deal with Houston worth $7.5 million a season, a source confirmed to The Star.
Analysis: Fulton, 26, is a good player who can play any of the three interior O-line spots but does his best work at center. I still think the Chiefs’ best line would have included Fulton at center and Mitch Morse at left guard, but that has more to do with how much better Fulton is at center, where he doesn’t have to move as much and can overpower people at the point of attack. That said, the Chiefs will still have Parker Ehinger and Bryan Witzmann at left guard, are both are experienced players who have room for development. Not a bad situation, but the Chiefs’ interior offensive line play needs to improve, especially in the run game, for this team to take the next step.