The housecleaning of the Chiefs that began with the hiring of a new head coach and general manager has produced a radically different looking team for 2013.
General manager John Dorsey and Andy Reid trimmed 22 players and traded backup linebacker Edgar Jones to Dallas on Saturday, leaving the Chiefs with 52 players, one short of the NFL’s 53-man, regular-season roster limit.
So when the Chiefs open the regular-season next Sunday at Jacksonville, they will have at least 26 new players — 13 on each side of the ball — including eight new starters.
And Dorsey and Reid aren’t finished yet.
Injuries and inexperience have left the Chiefs thin at some positions, notably tight end, so the club will no doubt be scouring the lists of players released around the league and may be making more roster moves in the next day or two.
Jones, one of the Chiefs’ better special-teams players last year, was traded to the Cowboys for an undisclosed draft pick.
The most notable players released Saturday were veteran tight end Tony Moeaki, backup safety Tysyn Hartman and backup running back Shaun Draughn.
Moeaki, who has a history of injuries dating to his college career at Iowa, suffered a shoulder fracture after making a 24-yard catch in a preseason game at Pittsburgh two weeks ago and was going to be out indefinitely.
The Chiefs’ third-round draft pick in 2010, Moeaki was productive as a rookie (47 receptions) and last year (33) when healthy, but he missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing knee surgery, and he missed the 2013 offseason program while recuperating from another procedure on this knee. It was apparent the new administration wasn’t going to wait for him to get healthy again and reached an injury settlement.
The Chiefs already fortified the position with the free agent signing of former Miami tight end Anthony Fasano and taking Travis Kelce in the third round of the 2013 draft, but Kelce has been nursing a knee injury during the past two weeks.
Hartman made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but the acquisitions of free agent safeties Quintin Demps and Husain Abdullah and surprising play of former Kansas safety Bradley McDougald made Hartman expendable.
Draughn, who rushed for 233 yards in 2012 as a backup to Jamaal Charles, was beaten out by second-year man Cyrus Gray. It didn’t help that Draughn whiffed on two blocks in pass protection that led to quarterback sacks in Thursday’s preseason game against Green Bay.
While there were no major surprises in whom the Chiefs released, a few players who survived the cut to 53 were unexpected, notably McDougald and rookie free agent linebacker Josh Martin of Columbia University. They joined quarterback Tyler Bray as three undrafted rookies and 10 rookies in total that made the 53-man roster.
Of the eight players drafted by the Chiefs last season, seven were kept. Fullback Braden Wilson, a sixth-round pick from Kansas State, was released in the roster cutdown to 75 last week.
Offensive tackle Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in the draft, is one of eight new starters in the lineup, including quarterback Alex Smith and fullback Anthony Sherman (obtained in trades) and Fasano, wide receiver Donnie Avery, defensive end Mike DeVito, inside linebacker Akeem Jordan, and cornerback Sean Smith (obtained as free agents).
Also, nickel cornerback back Dunta Robinson and safeties Husain Abduallah and Quintin Demps, who play in the dime package, were free agent pickups.
Besides Moeaki, Hartman and Draughn, others released were: defensive ends Austen Lane and Marcus Dixon; tight end Demetrius Harris; offensive linemen Rokevious Watkins, Matt Reynolds, Tommie Draheim and Steven Baker; wide receivers Josh Bellamy, Rico Richardson and Frankie Hammond Jr.; safeties Greg Castillo and Malcolm Bronson; cornerbacks Semaj Moody and Kennard Cox; linebackers Ridge Wilson, Orie Lemon and Darin Drakeford; and fullback Toben Opurum
After players clear waivers, the Chiefs can sign eight rookies/first-year players to the practice squad, and some of those who were cut, such as Wilson, Opurum and Richardson, could be brought back for that unit.