The Kansas City Chiefs remained favorites throughout the 2020 NFL season for good reason but ultimately fell short. The combination of injuries to their offensive line and a perfect game from Tampa Bay foiled those expectations, but what the Chiefs accomplished was, nevertheless, impressive. They’re still the betting favorites to return to next year’s Super Bowl.
It’s easy to see why as long as Patrick Mahomes has Andy Reid, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and a playmaking defense. Even as injuries piled and their running game disappeared, the Chiefs’ passing attack thrived. Mahomes would’ve eclipsed 5,000 yards on the season had he played in the final regular-season game.
Hill and Kelce nearly led the league in receiving yards, and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire totaled 1,100 yards. This offense should remain one of the most dangerous in the league, but there’s certainly an outcome where the Super Bowl doesn’t feature the elite unit. We have three reasons why the Chiefs won’t return to the Super Bowl.
Offensive Line Woes
Mahomes faced the most pressure of any quarterback in Super Bowl history. The Buccaneers deserve credit, but there’s no question the depleted offensive line played a part as to why Mahomes was running for his life. The Chiefs should have at least Mitchell Schwartz back, but there are question marks along the rest of the unit.
Eric Fisher sustained a torn Achilles, and the rest of the line is set to hit free agency. Kelechi Osemele was fantastic but also hurt most of the year. Both, Austin Reiter and Mike Remmers were replacement level, so better long-term fixes would be ideal.
There are limited resources thanks to salary cap woes that naturally come with a successful team. Restructuring the contracts of Frank Clark, Travis Kelce, and Chris Jones is a must, just to sign a draft class. The Chiefs will likely need to fill four starting positions with less than $12 million and three picks in the top-100 of the draft.
It’s not out of the question but the margin for error is slim. Mahomes can make magic with a limited group, but at some point, the mountain became too large for the star to overcome. The Chiefs can’t let that happen again, or else Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, or another contender can beat them.
Another potential fallout from the cap situation is who plays receiver. It’s rumored Hill could sit out for a new contract after his monster season, and the Chiefs must keep him. They’ll already lose Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson to free agency barring an unexpected re-signing, so adding a receiver is on the to-do list.
Missing on one signing or draft pick plus an injury to Hill would be devastating. Mecole Hardman hasn’t developed as a consistent threat and is instead a gadget player. The depth here is non-existent.
There’s speculation some low-cost veterans will be added to the unit. I’ve heard Desean Jackson, A.J. Green, Breshad Perriman, and Isaiah McKenzie’s names mentioned by executives as potential targets. Those are smart names, but it remains to be seen what the market will bear with such cap limitations.
What we do know is trying to find that balance between adding savvy vets for value and drafting well is a fine line that doesn’t always work out. The worst-case in 2021 is the Chiefs don’t get the same deep-set of skill players as they’ve benefitted from over the last few years.
Similar to having numerous offensive free agents, the defensive side of the ball has some notable names potentially departing. Defensive linemen Tanoh Kpassagnon and Alex Okafor are two key rotational players who must have snaps replaced. Defensive backs Bashaud Breeland and Daniel Sorensen are starting-caliber as well. Thankfully, there are some in-house replacements.
We’ll see bigger roles for Mike Danna, Willie Gay Jr., and rookie phenom L’Jarius Sneed at least. Snaps for a block-eating and run-stopping end to replace Kpassagnon shouldn’t be too hard. Okafor may come back cheaply, and that’d help tremendously with depth. Breeland is solid, but not someone the Chiefs can keep paying.
Nevertheless, the Chiefs can’t afford to skimp on depth. Sneed was a key depth piece with Breeland suspended, and having a young player ready to step up at other positions next year is important. But again, the limitations of assets hurts here. If the Chiefs can’t build that two-deep roster, a key injury to a pass-rusher or cornerback could doom their season en route to the Super Bowl.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.