Chiefs navigate roster turnover to re-build Super Bowl contender
The Kansas City Chiefs have been a model of consistency since handing Patrick Mahomes the reigns as starting quarterback in 2018. In six seasons with Mahomes under centre, the Chiefs have won six consecutive AFC West division titles, have reached the AFC Championship game in each season, and will look to cement their dynasty status with a third Super Bowl win, and second straight, when they take on the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11.
The core of the Chiefs' dynasty has remained consistent, with Mahomes, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, and defensive tackle Chris Jones being led by head coach Andy Reid. Roster turnover is inevitable for most Super Bowl-winning teams and the 2023 Chiefs were no different.
The Chiefs saw 27 per cent of their 2022 regular-season offensive snaps and 25 per cent of their defensive snaps vacated via players leaving in free agency in addition to the loss of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to the Washington Commanders.
General manager Brett Veach signed 13 players in free agency and added another seven in the draft to re-tool around his championship core.
Players lost: OT Orlando Brown Jr., OT Andrew Wylie, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Mecole Hardman Jr., RB Ronald Jones, FB Michael Burton
Players added: QB Blaine Gabbert, OT Sebastian Gutierrez, WR Richie James, OT Donovan Smith, OT, Jawaan Taylor,
Players drafted: WR Rashee Rice, OT Wanya Morris
While Kelce remained the team’s top receiving option, the Chiefs lost No. 1 wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to the New England Patriots in free agency. Smith-Schuster led all WRs in targets, receptions, and yards in 2022.
The Chiefs also lost speedster Mecole Hardman Jr. to the New York Jets but he was re-signed after he was released by the Jets in mid-October. Hardman led Chiefs receivers with four touchdowns in 2022.
Veach signed veteran Richie James and, in what would turn out to be the biggest offensive transaction of the offseason, drafted receiver Rashee Rice in the second round of the draft.
Second-year receiver Skyy Moore could not step into a larger role as hoped, catching 21 passes for 244 yards and one touchdown in 14 games this season. Kadarius Toney, who was acquired via trade from the New York Giants during the 2022 season, struggled with drops and inconsistency in his second year with the Chiefs, posting 169 receiving yards on 27 catches.
Rice, 23, quickly established himself as the Chiefs' best wide receiver and finished his rookie season with 938 yards and seven touchdowns, providing a strong complement to Kelce.
The Chiefs lost two major components of their offensive line, as left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, while right tackle Andrew Wylie signed with the Washington Commanders. The pair combined to play 86 per cent of Kansas City’s snaps at offensive tackle in 2022.
The Chiefs made a splash in free agency, signing right tackle Jawaan Taylor to a four-year, $80 million deal and veteran left tackle Donovan Smith to a one-year, $3 million contract to shore up the offensive line.
Former 49ers defensive lineman Charles Omenihu was signed to add versatility to the line and defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah was drafted in the first round to provide a long-term solution at the position.
Omenihu fit in immediately, recording a career-high 7.5 sacks in just 11 games. Second-year defensive end George Karlaftis stepped up to fill the void on the defensive line, recording a team-high 10.5 sacks this season.
Safety Juan Thornhill, who ranked fourth in defensive snaps played in 2022, signed a three-year contract with the Cleveland Browns, leaving a sizable void in the secondary. The team added former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards, who was a part of the Buccaneers defence that stifled the Chiefs in a 31-9 win in Super Bowl LV. Edwards played the majority of snaps at free safety this season.