NFL teams are stocked with 90 players for training camp and the preseason but only 53 making the opening week roster, which means opportunities for career advancements as well pitfalls remain on the horizon for a dozen or more players on each team.
The Chiefs are no different than any other NFL club. Here’s a run down of some of the team’s players who have the most to gain and lose during the course of this year’s four preseason games.
MOST TO GAIN
RB C.J. Spiller: The eighth-year veteran signed a free agent contract worth $900,000 but this might be the last chance for Spiller to prove he still belongs in the league. He rushed for 1,244 yards for Buffalo in 2012, but the last four season with four different teams brought a steady decline. Spiller looks healthy for the first time in several years, and is pushing for a roster spot. Even if he cannot force his way into Kansas City’s backfield, a good preseason showing could help him find a home.
QB Tyler Bray: Bray has never thrown a pass in a regular season game, and he will not throw one this year if all goes to plan. That means the preseason marks Bray’s best shot to showcase his skills for next year’s free agency period. The Chiefs appear ready to enter 2017 with Bray as the primary backup to Alex Smith. Nothing is guaranteed, however, with first-round draft pick Patrick Mahomes waiting in the wings. A poor preseason from Bray could result in Mahomes beating him out for the No. 2 job. If the Chiefs chose to move on from Bray in 2018, a strong preseason boosts his case to find a new home next year.
TE Demetrius Harris: Harris seems to consistently carry boom or bust potential into every season. The 6-7, 230-pound tight end presents attractive size and agility for the position. His habit of drops, however, always seems to hold him back. The 26-year-old Harris earns free agent status next year, and this is the year he needs to prove his value and nail down the No. 2 tight end role behind Travis Kelce.
MOST TO LOSE
WR Albert Wilson: The 25-year-old Wilson signed $1.797 million tender offer in the offseason with none of the contract guaranteed. Wilson looks relatively safe for the moment but the competition remains high at wide receiver. If Demarcus Robinson and Seantavius Jones continue their torrid pace from offseason workouts and training camp practice, Wilson may find himself in position battle. The Chiefs have salary cap constraints and cheaper alternatives. Wilson can eliminate all doubt about his role in Kansas City this year with a strong preseason.
CB Phillip Gaines: Last year proved a lost season for Gaines, who bounced in and out of the lineup with a nagging knee injury. Gaines enters free agency next season, and needs a big year to earn an opportunity at a healthy contract. A healthy Gaines returning to form can give the Chiefs comfort at cornerback they lacked a season ago. If Gaines cannot stay on the field, however, the team has other options.
RB Charcandrick West: West battled injuries last year and saw his number drop after a strong 2015 campaign. Now West must content with third-round draft pick Kareem Hunt for playing time, and also faces a challenge from the veteran Spiller. His $700,000 contract for this season is fully guaranteed his dead cap number of $1.37 million makes him more costly to cut than to keep. If Hunt and Spiller pass him on the depth chart, however, the Chiefs may consider their options.
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.