L’Jarius Sneed

Chiefs, L’Jarius Sneed Have Discussed Extension; Latest On Chris Jones

For most of Andy Reid‘s tenure, the Chiefs have not made cornerback a notable part of their budget. Rookie-contract players have staffed this position for the AFC West kingpins. This has led to a handful of Kansas City corner regulars finding their paydays elsewhere over the past several years.

The team is interested in making an exception for L’Jarius Sneed. Seeing the former fourth-round pick turn into a versatile performer during his rookie contract, the Chiefs have discussed an extension with the contract-year cover man, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes.

This marks two defenders the Chiefs have talked an extension with this year. While the Chris Jones discussions memorably did not produce a post-2023 resolution, the All-Pro defensive tackle is still open to staying in Kansas City after his current contract expires. Though, the Chiefs will likely need to outbid opposition on the market. Jones cannot realistically be franchise-tagged, unless the Chiefs are willing to cuff him at a tag number north of $32MM (due to the team tagging him in 2020). That may well direct him to the market, where a windfall would await.

Sneed’s situation is a bit simpler, with the prospect of a franchise tag in play. Like the Jones talks, no contract agreement has emerged. The sides appear fine with the player finishing out the season on his rookie deal and reassessing from there, Fowler adds. The Chiefs have exclusive Sneed negotiating rights until the 2024 legal tampering period, but the team has made sacrifices at this position during most of Reid’s tenure. No team has tagged a corner since the Rams cuffed Trumaine Johnson in 2017.

Kansas City has used two first-round picks on corners under Reid, drafting Marcus Peters in 2015 and Trent McDuffie last year, but they have opted to allocate free agency and extension dollars to other positions. The Chiefs did give Sean Smith a three-year, $16.5MM contract in Reid’s first offseason. Since, the team has found low-cost corners. Kansas City traded Peters in 2018, and while they found a gem in Charvarius Ward in a late-summer trade that year, the team let him walk (to the 49ers) during the 2022 free agency period. That came after the Chiefs let Steven Nelson defect to the Steelers in 2019 and allowed Kendall Fuller — obtained in the 2018 Alex Smith trade — return to Washington in 2020.

The Chiefs have relied on the Jones-Patrick MahomesTravis Kelce trio as cornerstones for many years, but with Jones nearing free agency and Kelce in his age-34 season, this foundation may need new Mahomes sidekicks in the not-too-distant future. The team has two 2021 draftees — second-rounders Nick Bolton and Creed Humphrey — it will almost definitely be interested in extending as well, with guard Trey Smith also extension-eligible next year. Jones re-upping on a monster third contract will also affect the Chiefs’ budget, as they agreed on a reworked Mahomes deal in September.

While the Chiefs’ history points Sneed to the market, the 2020 fourth-rounder has been pivotal to the team’s improved defense this season. The Chiefs rank second in scoring defense this year, with that unit — Mahomes and Kelce’s superstar statuses notwithstanding — powering the 7-2 team in the campaign’s first half. Pro Football Focus only has Sneed ranked 83rd among corners this season, after slotting him in the top 15 in 2022. The 6-foot-1 defender has still shown the ability to play outside and in the slot over the past four seasons, and his passer rating as the closest defender in coverage (59.1) is much lower compared to last season (84.2).

Regarding Jones, the Chiefs will probably need to authorize a payment they were not comfortable with this year in order to keep him. Early rumblings point to Jones being able to command close to $30MM per year, according to Fowler. Jones angled for money in the Aaron Donald neighborhood this summer and waged a holdout that cost him more than $2MM in an effort to secure such a contract. The Chiefs did not budge, and they lost their opener as Jones watched from an Arrowhead Stadium suite. Jones returned for an incentive package aimed to help him recoup some losses, but he is poised to be a top-tier free agent in March. Nick Bosa raising the defender ceiling to $34MM per year, after Donald’s $31.7MM number previously held that top spot, will not help the Chiefs on the Jones front.

The Chiefs wanted to re-up Jones on a deal closer to the newly formed second-tier D-tackle market. The Commanders (Daron Payne), Giants (Dexter Lawrence), Titans (Jeffery Simmons) and Jets (Quinnen Williams) each signed for AAVs between $22.5MM and $24MM. Jones, who turned 29 this season, has accomplished more than this lot and pushed for Donald-level dough. It will be interesting to see how high the price goes should he reach the open market.

Mecole Hardman Unlikely For Super Bowl LVII; Chiefs Optimistic On JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kadarius Toney

Both the Bengals and Chiefs lost wide receivers during the AFC championship game, but the eventual conference champions dealt with more pass-catcher unavailability. The Chiefs finished the game without three of their top four wideouts, with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney sidelined by game’s end.

The Chiefs are unlikely to have their top four each in uniform, but Andy Reid is optimistic Smith-Schuster and Toney will play against the Eagles. However, the 10th-year Chiefs HC added Hardman is unlikely to go (Twitter links via ESPN’s Adam Teicher).

Hardman aggravated his pelvis injury during Kansas City’s 23-20 win. The speedster’s return for the AFC decider marked his first action since Week 9. The Chiefs had placed the contract-year wideout on IR but activated him ahead of Week 18. Hardman still was not ready to go after the team’s bye week, and he played 15 offensive snaps against the Bengals.

Neither Smith-Schuster nor Toney practiced Thursday, though Toney was present for the team’s morning walkthrough. Smith-Schuster is battling a knee injury, while Toney’s latest ailment is an ankle issue. Smith-Schuster, who joins Hardman as a contract-year player, only missed one game this season. He led Chiefs wideouts — by a wide margin — with 78 catches for 933 yards. The ex-Steelers staple will command a deal north of the one-year, $3.76MM pact he signed this year. Though, Smith-Schuster boosted his earnings by hitting incentive standards this season.

Toney has been unable to shake the injury issues that contributed to his New York exit. After battling separate hamstring injuries during his final weeks with the Giants, the former first-round pick suffered another hamstring issue during his initial weeks with the Chiefs. Toney, who has missed 16 games during his two-season career, went down after making a first-half cut against Cincinnati. The new Chiefs gadget player logged just four offensive snaps.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling ended the game as the last man standing, and the ex-Packer delivered his best outing as a Chief. Valdes-Scantling totaled a season-high 116 yards against the Bengals, scoring a touchdown for the second straight week. Given Hardman’s likely absence and Toney’s unreliability, the Chiefs will likely need a similar effort from MVS against the Eagles. Valdes-Scantling signed a three-year, $30MM deal with the Chiefs, doing so shortly after the team traded Tyreek Hill (who added a third All-Pro receiving season to his resume this season). Although barely $8MM of that pact was guaranteed, Valdes-Scantling has a good chance of sticking around in Missouri next season.

Regarding the Chiefs’ other injuries, Patrick Mahomes said he did not aggravate his high ankle sprain in the AFC title game. L’Jarius Sneed remains in concussion protocol, but with the bye week, the third-year cornerback has a better shot of being cleared in time for the Super Bowl. Willie Gay‘s early shoulder tests were encouraging, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Chiefs Place Mitchell Schwartz On IR

Mitchell Schwartz has seen his iron-man run stop this season, having missed time due to injury. The Chiefs will now be without their ace right tackle for a while.

Kansas City placed Schwartz on IR Saturday. This move will sideline the All-Pro blocker for at least three more games. Schwartz is dealing with a back injury — one that has shelved him since Week 6.

Prior to the October injury, Schwartz had not missed a game in eight seasons. He had started four years with the Browns and another four with the Chiefs. Kansas City gave Schwartz an extension in the process, relying on his stability as Eric Fisher underwent surgery last season. Both Fisher and Schwartz landed on Kansas City’s reserve/COVID-19 list recently, but Fisher will be back in action against Las Vegas. Schwartz will not.

The Chiefs also removed Mecole Hardman from their reserve/COVID list. They had placed the second-year wideout on the virus list last week. Hardman should play a key role against the Raiders, with Sammy Watkins set to miss the AFC West rivals’ Week 11 rematch.

Kansas City is also activating Alex Okafor and defensive back L’Jarius Sneed from IR. Okafor worked as a starter last season, but a midseason injury knocked him out for the team’s Super Bowl push. A hamstring injury sidelined Okafor this season. A fourth-round rookie, Sneed played well early this year but suffered a broken collarbone in September. Okafor will help out a Chiefs pass rush that will be without Taco Charlton for a while. The Chiefs placed the offseason acquisition on IR Saturday.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/1/20

Here are Thursday’s minor moves:

Buffalo Bills

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Kansas City Chiefs

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

  • Placed on reserve/suspended list (with a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy): TE Chase Harrell

AFC West Notes: Chiefs, Sutton, Raiders

Clyde Edwards-Helaire will make his NFL debut Thursday night, doing so without the benefit of preseason carries. The Chiefs brought back both Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson to serve as his backups, but the defending Super Bowl champions considered a somewhat higher-profile RB2 option. A year after the Chiefs scooped up LeSean McCoy following his Bills release, they had interest in Adrian Peterson, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Peterson, who played under Eric Bieniemy from 2007-10 when the current Chiefs OC was the Vikings’ running backs coach, was interested in a Chiefs deal as well, per Herbie Teope of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). COVID-19 testing and the team’s first game being on Thursday night nixed a potential partnership, Fowler adds. Peterson signed with the Lions on Sunday.

Ahead of the Chiefs kicking off the 2020 season in less than an hour, here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • The Broncos have already lost their best defensive player for the season, in all likelihood, with Von Miller opting to undergo an ankle surgery that will require a months-long recovery process. They now have their top offensive talent dealing with an injury. Courtland Sutton went down during practice Thursday, suffering what an MRI determined to be an AC joint sprain, Mike Klis of 9News notes. While Sutton will be classified as day-to-day, the third-year wideout’s right shoulder malady has his status in doubt for the Broncos’ Monday-night opener against the Titans.
  • The Chiefs made a few mid-level moves to bolster their depth chart this year, from re-signing wideout Demarcus Robinson and backup quarterback Chad Henne to adding offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele, Daniel Kilgore and Mike Remmers. Kansas City, however, does enter the season with a thin cornerback group thanks to Kendall Fuller‘s Washington return and Bashaud Breeland‘s four-game suspension. GM Brett Veach confirmed the team considered signing a veteran early in camp but saw enough from fourth-round rookie L’Jarius Sneed and young replacement options Rashad Fenton and Antonio Hamilton to stick with the status quo, per Adam Teicher of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • Lynn Bowden Jr.‘s Raiders tenure not lasting until Week 1 represented one of this summer’s more surprising developments, but the team viewed the third-round pick as ineffective on the field and a potential red flag off it. A lack of explosiveness contributed to the Raiders shipping Bowden to the Dolphins, according to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, who adds the team was also concerned about the Kentucky product’s off-field approach — particularly after the team’s move to Las Vegas (subscription required). The Raiders ate Bowden’s $985K signing bonus to send the gadget player to Miami.

Chiefs To Sign Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Wrap Draft Class

The Chiefs have verbally agreed to deals with all six players in their draft class, as Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports tweets. Here’s the full rundown of the group, headlined by one of this year’s most intriguing rushers: 

1-32: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB (LSU)
2-63: Willie Gay Jr., LB (Mississippi State)
3-96: Lucas Niang, OT (TCU)
4-138: L’Jarius Sneed, S (Louisiana Tech)
5-177: Mike Danna, DE (Michigan)
7-237: Thakarius Keyes, CB (Tulane)

Don’t let Edwards-Helaire’s 5’7″ frame fool you – he’s tough, durable, and a proven three-down back. His agility and soft hands made him one of this year’s most coveted rookie RBs, though some evaluators were concerned about his speed. That’s not a huge problem in KC, where they already have ample quickness on offense.

The LSU product is expected to serve as the Chiefs’ top running back, ahead of Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson. Elijah McGuire, Darrel Williams, and former Raiders rusher DeAndre Washington are also on the offseason roster.