KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs set their initial roster Saturday afternoon and a few moves raised surprises, including second-year defensive end Breeland Speaks seeing his season come to an end while special teams ace Tremon Smith sticks after a position change.
When general manager Brett Veach was asked for his biggest revelation to make the 53-man roster, he answered with defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu. The sixth-year free agent cracked the squad in part due to his eight total and two sacks Thursday night at Green Bay.
“He was a guy that we had some different dialogue with, a 3-4 outside linebacker, a defensive end, and how to use him,” Veach said. “I think he was a guy that really played his tail off that last game and it was hard to argue with the production that he had.”
While it was no surprise sixth-round draft choice Darwin Thompson made the squad, Veach didn't expect the 5-8, 195-pound back to enter the season at No. 2 behind starter Damien Williams.
“I think his ability to grasp everything so quickly and move up the depth chart was a pleasant surprise,” Veach said.
Season over for Breeland Speaks
The Chiefs seemingly left the door open to Speaks after suffering a knee injury in the second preseason game at Pittsburgh, but further evaluation and surgery this week revealed more damage in his right knee than initially feared.
The ACL in Speaks' knee is intact, but damaged to the MCL and meniscus pushed the Chiefs to place him on injured reserve now and end his season.
“He's such a young guy that there's no way you want to kind of put a designated tag on him and rush him back out there,” Veach said.
The Chiefs also placed wide receiver Gehrig Dieter on injured reserve. That ends his season with the Chiefs, but Veach hinted a move could becoming. That might include an injury settlement that would allow Dieter to sign on with another club.
“I'm not sure exactly where we are with Gehrig right now,” Veach said. “We're still going through some medical stuff with our trainers and with his agent. Officially how that will get designated is yet to be determined.”
Jeff Allen gone … for now
Seeing veteran Jeff Allen's name on the cut list stood out as a surprise, but it appears roster machinations may be at play here.
The Chiefs want the luxury of designating quarterback Chad Henne to return from injured reserve later this season. Henne underwent surgery for an ankle fracture on Tuesday. In order to return Henne to the club later in the season, however, he had to make the initial 53-man roster for a day. Allen appears to be doing the Chiefs a favor by taking his release on Saturday and re-signing later
“We still have some time here and there will be at least one more roster spot we can add, and I'm sure he may be in the mix along with some other guys,” Veach said.
Unless surprises develop on the waiver wire or trade fronts, expect Allen to return to the club in short order.
Tremon Smith stays … for now
Smith's status on the roster seemed in doubt when he switched from the defensive side of the ball to offense, and the return of De'Anthony Thomas seemed to imperil his status further.
But with Thomas suspended for the first week of the sentence due to his January arrest for marijuana possession, Veach felt the Chiefs need Smith in Week 1.
“Tremon was a guy who certainly did a great job for us last year on special teams in the return game and has really done a nice job now on the coverage units,” Veach said.
The general manager said Smith and Thomas graded as two of the team's top gunners during the preseason, and his ability to play cornerback, running back and wideout enhance his value.
“Given his versatility and the fact that he does so much for us on teams, it just made more sense for us right now to keep him on the roster and play with the guys that will help us in Jacksonville,” Veach said.
Carlos Hyde dealt for Martinas Rankin
Carlos Hyde appeared the odd man out for the Chiefs in their backfield, especially with the desire to keep Smith. The Houston Texans lost starter Lamar Miller for the season last week, and they gave Veach a call, offering offensive lineman Martinas Rankin for Hyde.
“When they presented us with Rankin, it was one of the positions – there were a couple of of positions we were really looking for in the last few days here – and one of them was at the offensive tackle,” Veach explained.
Rankin played all 16 games for the Texans last season with four starts. He started three games at left tackle and one at left guard, but Veach views him as a swing tackle who could develop into more under the expert tutelage of offensive line coach And Heck.
“You get a guy that was drafted in the third round last year, still a young kid, has a lot of upside,” Veach said, “and we like having a young that we can develop and we also have under contractual control for the next three years. We thought if would be a good move for us to build some depth at the tackle position.”
Just five wide receivers, four corners
The Chiefs kept five receivers with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle. Smith has played at receiver as well, and the Chiefs will get Thomas back in Week 2, so reinforcements are available with more on the way.
Still, the absence of a sixth receiver on the initial 53 roster seemed odd, especially with Cody Thompson, Rashard Davis and Jody Fortson delivering solid training camp and preseason performances. All are candidates for the practice squad, with Thompson and Fortson likely to return to the Chiefs if they clear waivers, according to sources.
Veach said the club knew Thomas would start the season with suspension well before Saturday's cut-down day.
“We were in contact with De'Anthony and we were still waiting to get some back information from the league,” Veach said. “Then once the summer went along and training camp went along, we actually got that information back. At the time, I think the dialogue that we had with the league office was no games or possibly one games, so that was certainly something that we were aware of.”
Veach also kept just four corners — Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller, Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton. That's despite dealing Mark Fields to Minnesota for a 2021 seventh-round pick and waiving D'Montre Wade and Herb Miller.
In the short term, Veach feels the team's depth at safety can overcome the short bench at corner. Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill and Jordan Lucas can play corner in a pinch, Veach reasons, and the club also has Mo Claiborne eligible to return from suspension in Week 5.
"One of the things we have is we have good safety depth and we have good safety versatility," Veach said. "I think if you look at our roster, I would guess, and I don't want to speak for coach, but I would guess those five safeties will be active on game day."
Veach said he worked the phones regarding potential trades for cornerbacks, but nothing materialized. He plans to keep the lines of communication open, however, regarding both trade opportunities and potential waiver claims.
"We'll certainly keep our eyes open and we have these guys marked and tagged and we'll kind of monitor their progress here the next few days," Veach said.