Coach Andy Reid knew the Chiefs would be releasing some good players this year when general manager John Dorsey recently put together his annual board denoting potential roster holes.
“I remember the first year, we had a lot of circles up on the board,” said Reid, who arrived in Kansas City before the 2013 season. “And this year, there aren’t those circles. So that’s a good thing.”
But because of that, the Chiefs — who informed at least eight players of their release on Friday — were forced to move on from some pretty talented players prior to the 53-man roster deadline of 3 p.m. Saturday.
In all, one player — receiver Rod Streater — was traded, while 13 more were released as the Chiefs trimmed their roster to 54. Safety Eric Berry has a roster exemption until next Saturday, the team says.
The trade of Streater to San Francisco — along with a conditional seventh-round pick in 2019, for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2019 — is an example of the team’s improved depth. The third-year pro had a nice preseason, catching six passes for 89 yards, and consistently flashed in preseason camp. Yet, he failed to nail down a job at a position that had been a weakness as recently as 2014. Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, Tyreek Hill, De’Anthony Thomas and Demarcus Robinson all nailed down roster spots — at least, for now.
Another contributor in recent years that the Chiefs released was receiver Frankie Hammond, who returned 29 punts the last two years but was boxed out after the selection of the dynamic Hill in the fifth round of this year’s draft.
The Chiefs also released running back Darrin Reaves, who earned reps ahead of Knile Davis in the third preseason game and led the team in preseason carries (39) and yards (144) while adding seven receptions for 37 yards. Yet, the Chiefs opted to hold on to Davis, a third-round pick in 2013 who was surpassed on the depth chart by Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West a year ago but adds value as a kick returner.
The rest of the players released Saturday were less of a surprise, though many stated their case for a spot with a strong preseason. Among those who fall into that category are defensive tackles David King and Jimmy Staten and inside linebacker Terrance Smith, who earned second-team reps the last two games ahead of D.J. Alexander, who made the team presumably because of his special-teams skills.
Other players who were released include rookie safety Shak Randolph (a rangy cover man), tight end Brian Parker (who spent last year on the active roster), center Daniel Munyer (who spent most of last year on the practice squad) and offensive lineman Jarrod Pughsley (who did the same). All of them should be eligible for the practice squad, along with inside linebacker Tyrell Adams and fifth-round rookie quarterback Kevin Hogan, whose release leaves the Chiefs with Alex Smith, Nick Foles and Tyler Bray at the position on the active roster.
Veteran safety Brock Vereen, who was recently claimed off waivers from New England, and offensive tackle Zach Sterup, who was recently suspended for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, were released as well.
The Chiefs have Super Bowl aspirations this year, and the moves they made Saturday were made with that goal in mind.
But don’t think for a second that anyone in the organization, especially Reid, is getting ahead of themselves. Last year’s team didn’t have many circles (weak spots) either, Reid said, and while they finished 11-5, their 1-5 start showed how wacky the NFL can be.
“We were able to stop the bleeding, but that thing keeps going, and you’re looking at a pretty average season right there with some pretty good players,” Reid said. “Anything can happen, at any given year and any given week.”
Here’s the Chiefs’ roster (for now)
Quarterbacks (3): Alex Smith, Nick Foles, Tyler Bray
The Chiefs released two recent draft picks, 2014 fifth-rounder Aaron Murray and 2016 fifth-rounder Kevin Hogan, to hold onto Bray, a 2013 undrafted free agent with the best arm of the bunch. He outperformed both during camp.
Running backs (5): Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Knile Davis, Anthony Sherman
The only mild surprise was Davis over Darrin Reaves, but Davis brings special-teams ability and has carried the ball plenty in real games, which should serve as insurance as Charles works his way back.
Receiver (6): Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, Tyreek Hill, De’Anthony Thomas, Demarcus Robinson
The Chiefs dealt away Rod Streater, who had a nice training camp. That speaks to their improved depth. Thomas’ special-teams ability, not to mention his ability to occasionally line up as a running back, probably helped his cause.
Tight ends (4): Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, Ross Travis, James O’Shaughnessy
The Chiefs have used a ton of three-tight end sets this preseason, so this probably shouldn’t be considered much of a surprise.
Offensive line (8): Eric Fisher, Parker Ehinger, Mitch Morse, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz, Zach Fulton, Jah Reid, Jordan Devey
The Chiefs opted to keep Devey instead of Jarrod Pughsley, a mild surprise considering Pughsley’s ability to play center. Devey can play center and guard, but the team might still be wise to scour the waiver wire for a true swing tackle.
Defensive line (6): Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard, Allen Bailey, Chris Jones, Nick Williams, Rakeem Nunez-Roches
This one of the team’s deepest units, as they had to release two young players (David King, Jimmy Staten) with promise.
Outside linebackers (5): Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Frank Zombo, Dezman Moses, Dadi Nicolas
Inside linebackers (4): Derrick Johnson, Justin March-Lillard, Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander
The Chiefs have some nice young talent here, with March-Lillard — an undrafted free agent a year ago — seemingly outdueling two draft picks from the same year for the starting job.
Cornerbacks (6): Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, Kenneth Acker, D.J. White, KeiVarae Russell
Someone is going to have to step up and play across from Peters, or this young group could yield more yards than it did last year.
Safeties (4): Eric Berry (roster exemption), Ron Parker, Daniel Sorensen, Eric Murray
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton likes his safeties, but the Chiefs cut three veteran backups this weekend.
Special teams (3): Cairo Santos, Dustin Colquitt, James Winchester
No surprises here.