With a first-year starter at quarterback, the Chiefs weren’t going to feature two inexperienced players in a three-man group. That meant undrafted rookie free agent out of Marshall, Chase Litton, drew the short straw when roster cuts came down on Saturday.
The Chiefs went with the quarterback trio of Patrick Mahomes, veteran backup Chad Henne and fifth-year man Matt McGloin on the 53-man roster and waived Litton. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Litton could return as a member of the practice squad if he clears waivers without being claimed by another team.
“Both those guys came in and did a great job,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said of McGloin and Litton. “Certainly, we’d be excited to work with Chase, but we also recognize that there’s chance that he’s done enough that maybe a team takes a stab at him on a waiver claim.”
Litton played in the second half of Thursday night’s Chiefs’ preseason finale and completed 13 of 21 passes for 166 yards, including a 40-yard completion to former Kansas State standout Byron Pringle. The Chiefs placed Pringle on the reserve/injured on Saturday. Pringle injured his hamstring on Thursday night.
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Litton finished the preseason having completed 24 of 41 passes for 299 yards and one touchdown.
McGloin went 22 for 34 on pass attempts for 221 yards, one touchdown and one interception during the preseason.
“What you do on the field is important,” Veach said. “Then (there’s) the everyday stuff that you’re bringing to the meeting rooms. A lot of preparation, a lot of information goes on in that room. The thing I would say about Matt is his experience in the league — playing in our division too — and just the feedback he and Chad are able to give Pat, that’s a big deal.”
One of the surprising decisions came at the inside linebacker position where the Chiefs cut second-year player and former fifth-round draft pick Ukeme Eligwe. They held onto undrafted rookie free-agent Ben Niemann, third-round draft pick Dorian O’Daniel and fourth-year man Terrance Smith.
Veach credited Smith holding onto a roster spot largely due to his special-teams prowess as one of the top-graded players on those units the past couple seasons. Meanwhile, Niemann had an outstanding camp and preseason.
“It basically just came down to Ben Niemann, you just couldn’t ignore the tape,” Veach said. “That was it. … Actually, we had two teams that called us about Ben Niemann. We knew that he wasn’t going to get through the waiver wire. We knew that he was not going to make it to the practice squad. In some of these trades that we didn’t do, the guy they wanted was Ben Niemann.”
Then there were two
The Chiefs will likely go into next week’s season opener with just two tight ends, Travis Kelce and Alex Ellis, available to play. Backup tight end Demetrius Harris will sit out the first game as a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The Chiefs cut Tim Wright and Jace Amaro on Saturday.
Veach said the team would exhaust possibilities to bolster the position, and that they’ve devoted resources in the past trying, fruitlessly, to acquire depth at that position. However, he didn’t think many of the targets he and his staff identified as potential additions would be available after roster cuts. The Chiefs may go with just three tight ends when Harris returns.
Talking about practice
The Chiefs figure to add players to the practice squad over the next couple of days as players go through the waiver process and teams are able to put in claims. Along with Litton, candidates for the practice squad, provided they don’t sign elsewhere, likely include cornerbacks Arrion Springs and D’Montre Wade, outside linebackers Tyrone Holmes and Rob McCray, defensive lineman Dee Liner and offensive lineman Bentley Spain.
The Oakland Raiders traded pass rusher Khalil Mack, their best defensive player, and a 2020 second-round pick to the Chicago Bears for 2019 first-round pick, a 2020 first-round pick and a 2020 third-round pick.
Mack became the fourth player after winning the Defensive Player of the Year award (joining Jason Taylor, Pat Swilling and Keith Millard). Mack reportedly signed a six-year contract extension with the Bears on Saturday, which made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.
“We were excited,” Veach said of Mack leaving the AFC West. “I think I was probably the first one to call Matt (Nagy) today, and I congratulated him and I said the Bears and the Chiefs just got better today.”
Nagy, the Bears first-year head coach, was an assistant and offensive coordinator on the Chiefs’ staff under Andy Reid.