The Kansas City Chiefs blew an 18-point lead to the Cincinnati Bengals, and now questions abound headed to free agency.
For awhile, it appeared the Kansas City Chiefs were about to reach their third straight Super Bowl, during so with relative ease. Leading 21-3 over the Cincinnati Bengals in the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game, all was right.
Then, suddenly, it wasn’t.
After a cosmic meltdown over the final 30+ minutes of regulation and into overtime, the Chiefs fell to Cincinnati, 27-24. The Bengals are moving on, and soon, the Chiefs will be as well, but in a different fashion.
While Kansas City general manager Brett Veach doesn’t face a horrible cap situation, he has decisions to make. The Chiefs are looking at a pair of Pro Bowlers hitting unrestricted free agency, including left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and safety Tyrann Mathieu. Both figure to command salaries at or near the top of their respective positional markets.
In Brown, the Chiefs traded their first, third and fourth-round picks to land him from the Baltimore Ravens. After initially needing to settle in with Patrick Mahomes’ style, Brown was terrific, earning his third consecutive Pro Bowl nod. If Veach and Brown can’t come to an agreement before the start of free agency, one imagines Kansas City will use its franchise tag to keep him around.
As for Mathieu, he’s been one of the best free-agent signings in team history. In three seasons with the Chiefs, he’s twice been named a First-Team All-Pro and has been a Pro Bowl each campaign. His brilliance and leadership on the back end helped Kansas City win Super Bowl LIV, while earning a return engagement last year.
Kansas City only has $14 million in projected space, but can open up another $20M by releasing veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens and edge rusher Frank Clark. That’s enough to tag Brown, and the remaining money could be used to extend Mathieu and perhaps bring back corner Charvarius Ward. However, Kansas City could opt to let Mathieu walk, giving it flexibility to improve in other areas.
Going forward, a few things are certain about the Chiefs. They’re going to be a favorite once again to win it all in 2022, and they’re going to look different after a shocking loss to an upstart team in the AFC title game.
How it shakes out remains to be seen, but Kansas City won’t be running it back.