KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The beginning of the NFL’s new league year marked the end of a whirlwind six weeks for Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, yet in many ways the work has just barely begun on the 2018 season.
“We feel, coach (Andy Reid) and I both feel, that we’ve plotted a course to turn a new chapter for this organization and we’re excited for OTAs and we’re excited for the draft,” Veach said.
Wednesday marked the first day NFL teams could consummate trades and sign unrestricted free agents from other teams, and the Chiefs dived in with reckless abandon.
The club confirmed two trades. One sent quarterback Alex Smith to Washington in exchange for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick in this year’s draft. The second deal sent cornerback Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams along with a sixth-round pick this season. The Chiefs in turn received a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 second-round selection.
Veach didn’t even try to contain his enthusiasm over landing Fuller.
“He’s an ascending player with a tremendous amount of potential,” Veach said. “This kid’s got versatility, instincts, ball skills, and again we’re really excited to add Kendall to our roster.”
Veach also officially confirmed the club agreed to terms with free agent wide receiver Sammy Watkins from the Rams and linebacker Anthony Hitchens from the Dallas Cowboys.
Landing Watkins and Hitchens completed tasks that Veach tried to carry out during his first few weeks on the job last summer. Veach’s first trade call on the job was to Dallas inquiring about Hitchens for added depth at inside linebacker. The Cowboys declined, however.
A month later Watkins hit the market, prompting Veach to phone Bills general manager Brandon Beane. He offered the Bills a third-round pick, but the Rams topped that proposal with a second-round selection.
“Anthony Hitchens who we called about first week on the job, and then one of the first trade calls I made was to Brandon about Sammy,” Veach said. “We would have liked to have had Sammy last year.”
The Chiefs also confirmed the signing of three of their own free agents: fullback Anthony Sherman, wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas and defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins. The club also tender offers to restricted free agent Rakeem Nunez-Roches and exclusive rights free agent Terrance Smith, who re-signed with the team. Nunez-Roches can field offers from other teams, but the Chiefs have the right to match any offer or receive a sixth-round pick as compensation.
And Veach and his staff remains far from done.
The next most likely move is the re-signing of punter Dustin Colquitt.
“We’re just working to reach a happy medium and I think that will get done, probably tomorrow,” Veach said.
Also not far behind may be the addition of another quarterback to the stable. Patrick Mahomes is the only quarterback currently on the roster. Veach said he wants an experienced backup behind Mahomes.
“That’s extremely important and we’ve always had that here,” Veach said. “We’ve had that with Nick Foles and Chase Daniel and I’m sure we’ll get something done soon.”
Veach teased Chiefs fans at the prospect of bolstering the secondary with safety Tyrann Mathieu, whom the Arizona Cardinals released earlier on Wednesday.
“If we can make the money work, sure,” Veach said.
That might be difficult, however. The Cardinals released Mathieu after being unable to restructure his contract. The deal called for $18 million in additional guarantees at the start of the season. The original five-year contract the safety signed in 2016 included $21 million guaranteed as part of a $62.5 million package.
Landing Mathieu might be difficult for a team that last year committed $78 million over six years to safety Eric Berry.
Veach said his salary cap team would do its magic, but suggested that the door may already be closed.
“We throw a ton of information at these guys, they process it quickly and then we move on to the next thing,” Veach said of his capologists. “But we exhaust ideas and options that maybe are completely unrealistic or maybe a 1 percent chance of ever happening. But we’ll still exhaust it if it can happen. But sure, and that would be another one that maybe we already exhausted already.”
One roster move Veach doesn’t not plan to make involves Dee Ford. The fifth-year pass rusher missed much of last season with a back injury. Veach expects Ford to be fully healthy by April 1 and ready for offseason training activities.
Veach said he believes Ford can return to the form he flashed in early 2016 when he collected 10 sacks in the season’s first nine games.
“The guy’s in tremendous shape and he’s extremely explosive and our intention is that we’re going to score a lot of points this year and he’s going to have a lot of chances to get after the quarterback,” Veach said.
Veach’s reward for a hectic offseason stretch? Getting back to his true love, scouting college football players for this year’s draft. The Chiefs currently lack a first-round pick, but the club does have eight picks overall thanks to their GM’s wheeling and dealing.
“I’m excited to get back on the road and hit some pro days up, and I’m excited for the draft,” Veach said. “Who knows, maybe we’ll be back in the first round before it’s all said and done.”