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Chiefs’ final cutdown reveals a team that is loaded with young talent

Minnesota Vikings v Kansas City Chiefs
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

What we’ve seen this week makes it pretty clear that the Chiefs’ roster is getting deeper and deeper.

In a number of ways, this has been a very strange week for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Like the rest of the NFL’s teams, they needed to cut their 80-man roster down to 53 players by 3 p.m. Arrowhead Time on Tuesday. They made the deadline — but along the way, some odd things happened.

Here at Arrowhead Pride, we tracked all the reports about players with whom the team wanted to cut ties. One of them was cornerback Chris Lammons. On Tuesday morning, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that Kansas City planned to waive Lammons.

Hardly anyone batted an eye at this news. Lammons — an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina who had appeared in 12 games for the Miami Dolphins in 2019 — had signed a reserve/futures contract right after Kansas City’s Super Bowl LIV victory. He was then signed to the team’s practice squad immediately after being waived on 2020’s final cutdown day. He was elevated to the roster for two regular-season games and two postseason games — and then activated to the roster just before Super Bowl LV.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise when such a player is waived after training camp… right?

But when Kansas City’s initial 53-man roster was announced late on Monday afternoon, Lammons was on it.

It would have been easy to blame Garafolo for making an incorrect report. It turned out, however, that he had been exactly right. The Chiefs had told Lammons he was being waived. The cornerback had actually left the building — but then received a call from the Chiefs, saying that he would make the roster after all.

This wasn’t the only time this week that reports led us astray. By late afternoon Wednesday, Arrowhead Pride’s practice squad signing tracker had listed reliable reports identifying 15 players — four of them new to the team — who had been signed to the Kansas City practice squad.

Early on Wednesday evening, however, the NFL’s second transactions report of the day showed just 14 players the Chiefs had reported to the league as being signed to their practice squad. None of the four new players were on that list. Meanwhile, three former Chiefs — none of whom had been reliably reported to have been signed to the practice squad — were on it.

Again… it’s easy to blame poor (or lazy) reporting. But it’s probably not that simple.

Although we have often seen things like this happen after the NFL draft as the Chiefs pursue and sign undrafted free agents — a situation that by its very nature breeds chaos — we’ve rarely seen this kind of confusion surround Kansas City’s final cutdown day.

So why did it happen?

Reading between the lines of general manager Brett Veach’s comments to reporters on Wednesday, it was clear that many of the team’s final-cutdown decisions were very difficult. This shouldn’t be surprising. Following Friday night’s final preseason game, multiple members of the local press released Chiefs roster projections that were accompanied by remarks saying that they had never found it harder to predict what Kansas City would do; a week ago Tuesday, I myself had said much the same thing to Pete Sweeney during our Arrowhead Pride Editors Show podcast.

And that’s a good thing, isn’t it? If a team’s GM has to go back and forth on roster decisions right up to the deadline, doesn’t it follow that they have a great many good players from which to choose? I can remember many Chiefs seasons in which the final roster decisions appeared to have been made well before the deadline — sometimes before the third preseason game. I can also remember many final cutdown days that weren’t followed by reports of just-terminated Chiefs immediately landing with other teams.

Yet last week, special teams coordinator (and assistant head coach) Dave Toub told reporters that quite a few roster spots were still up for grabs before the third preseason game. On Tuesday, Veach said the team had come to realize that if they waived either of their young tight ends, they’d immediately be claimed — and that they thought defensive end Tim Ward wasn’t likely to clear waivers, either. But they waived Ward anyway, because players like wide receiver Daurice Fountain, tight end Jody Fortson — and Lammons, just to name a few — had made even stronger cases to make the team’s roster. And as they expected, Ward — along with cornerback BoPete Keyes and running back Darwin Thompson — will be wearing different uniforms in 2021.

Right now, there’s no way to be sure that any of the roster decisions Veach made this week were the right ones; only time will tell. But it’s nice to see a Chiefs team that is so loaded with talent that fans are upset when players like Ward are released; six months ago — after Ward had been with the Chiefs for two seasons — most fans probably wouldn’t have recognized his name. This means that the team’s efforts to locate (and develop) young talent — which must be a crucial part of the team’s strategy during the years Patrick Mahomes is its quarterback — are going very well.

To be sure, it’s difficult to watch good players walk away. But it seems like teams without this problem have another one that’s even bigger: they aren’t Super Bowl contenders.

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