Kansas City Chiefs: Position needs in 2021 NFL Draft, free agency

Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
3 of 4
Kansas City Chiefs, 2021 NFL Draft
Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /


Although not as bad as the offensive line, the Chiefs will see a large exodus from their secondary unit this offseason. The unit has five free agents this offseason playing either cornerback or safety and many, if not most of them, will be suiting up somewhere else in 2021. The biggest name on this list has to be starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who played in 2020 on a one-year deal. Despite playing for a future contract, Breeland only saw the field during 11 games, missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension.

Turning 30-years-old in May, Breeland is still a solid starting cornerback in the NFL. But he has certainly taken a step back in recent years, showing inconsistencies week to week since joining the Chiefs in 2019. And with just nine pass deflections and two interceptions last year, it is likely Breeland signs somewhere else this offseason. S

afety Daniel Sorenson is also likely to leave after having spent his first six seasons in the NFL playing for the Chiefs. A solid safety on defense and contributor on special teams, Sorenson’s four-year contract is up this offseason. At 31-years old, the Chiefs will likely want to bring in younger talent to help shore up the defensive backs room this offseason.

Defensive back Charvarius Ward is also a contributor that could see the road as a restricted free agent. Although nominally easier to bring back than Breeland or Sorenson, the Chiefs face a tough choice with Ward: Do they give him a first or second-round tender as a restricted free agent, essentially locking him down for at least $3.38 million in 2021, or do they roll the dice and give him an original round tender of just $2.13 million and potentially see him leave?

Losing both starting cornerbacks is tough but do you pay millions of dollars for a player like Ward, who has only logged in two interceptions and 19 pass deflections in three seasons? Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how the Chiefs’ front office decides to play this.

Free Agency

With potentially both starting cornerbacks leaving this offseason, drafting two starting-caliber cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft isn’t an option (unless they find two first-rounders in-between the couch cushions somehow). The Chiefs will have to bring in at least one free agent cornerback this offseason, giving the secondary a veteran defender and deferring on a long-term solution at one or both starting cornerback slots.

If the Chiefs do decide to go for a short-term veteran player to maximize a shot at a deep playoff run, then there are several options available. Former Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson would be an interesting choice for the Chiefs because of the high ceiling he has shown in the past.

The former first-rounder had at one point shown tremendous consistency year to year since being drafted in 2011. Peterson has an impeccable starting record as well, playing in every regular-season game for nine seasons, missing just six games in 2019 due to a suspension. But 2020 proved to be a lackluster year for Peterson, as he seemed to regress in coverage skills, giving up a 98.2 passer rating against, according to Pro-Football-Reference. At 31-years-old, Peterson is still worth a starting position but a long-term deal is probably out of the question.

If we’re going to talk about veteran cornerbacks available this offseason, we can’t forget to mention Richard Sherman. The de-facto mouthpiece of the Seattle “Legion of Boom”, Sherman is a figurative living legend in the NFL, a defender who can affect offensive play-calling just by his presence on the field. However, Sherman is turning 33-years-old in 2021 and hasn’t been the elite, shutdown cornerback we all remember in a long time. He only played five games in 2020 and with an injury history to consider, bringing him into the fold would be a huge risk for the Chiefs’ front office.

So why would either of these two cornerbacks consider joining the Chiefs? Simple: A chance at a Super Bowl ring. Sherman has made it to the big game three times but only walked away with one ring, in a game where the Seattle Seahawks demolished an aging Peyton Manning on national television. Not exactly the most honorable Super Bowl victory to put on the Hall of Fame tape. And in Peterson’s case, the closest he ever got was the 2015-2016 NFC Championship game with the Cardinals.

Peterson hasn’t been to a playoff game since. Both men have defined a decade of cornerback play, but to cement it in the history books is going to require joining a team that is already contenders.

In both Sherman and Peterson’s cases, joining the Chiefs may present their best and maybe only chance at contending for a Super Bowl ring again. And in exchange, the Chiefs would get a short-term solution at their respective positions and infuse a level of veteran experience and clout into a position group desperately needing a patch this offseason. If they bring in one of these veterans, it would still be important to find a cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft as well, someone who could take advantage of their expertise and intellect.

2021 NFL Draft options

Should the Chiefs decide to build the secondary through the draft, they better send their best defensive scout to UCF on April 1st. Because April 1st is the day that UCF is holding its football Pro Day, serving as the default 2021 Combine this offseason. There, three defensive backs will be showcasing what they’ve got for prospective NFL scouts looking to upgrade their secondaries in the 2021 NFL Draft. Cornerbacks Aaron Robinson and Tay Gowan will be there, along with safety Richie Grant. All three players are great options as long-term solutions to the Chiefs’ secondary needs.

Of the two cornerbacks, Gowan is the more intriguing prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. At 6-foot-2, the snappy cornerback has the size and speed to hold his own against taller NFL receivers. Used as a strickly outside cornerback, Gowan would have little problem getting over the heads of elite NFL receivers while keeping pace with some of its fastest. Whether he was playing press or off-coverage, Gowan was able to keep his assigned receiver in check for most games, giving up very few receptions in 2019.

The biggest knock on Gowan will be his lack of sustained starting experience, as he has only started one full season with UCF before opting out in 2020. But his production in 2019, with 31 tackles, eight pass deflections and two interceptions in 12 games, gives NFL scouts a floor from which to assess Gowan.

Next up is Robinson who has more film to chose from when evaluating him but his role in the NFL is less clear than Gowan. He mostly played slot cornerback during his three seasons at UCF, but at 6-foot-1, 193-pounds he could easily play outside as well. He has great short-distance burst but his speed and willingness to throttle down against screens and run plays makes him more suited for a box safety position.

Regardless, Robinson has such a diverse bag of skills and raw athletic ability that he will find a role somewhere in the NFL. Having played plenty of press coverage during his time at UCF, Robinson could easily transfer over to outside duties while his quick processing of the field would allow him to swap into a safety or slot role just as easily.

Related Story. NFL Mocks: Richie Grant seizing the top safety spot in 2021 NFL Draft?. light

Finally, we come to the UCF safety Grant. Although not the most exciting safety in the 2021 NFL Draft, there is still plenty to like about him as a prospect. He’s played meaningful snaps in all four of his seasons at UCF, taking over full-time duties in 2018. His best year by far, he logged in a whopping six interceptions and 108 tackles, according to Sports-Reference and cemented himself as a prospect to watch.

A solid tackler, he can drop runners and tight ends that break the front seven, bringing them down quickly and cleanly. At the same time, he has great coverage ability and a knack for mirroring opposing receiver’s movements to a tee. He is rarely tricked with double moves or dips and will break on routes before the ball is even thrown, signaling a high football IQ.

All three players certainly have their downsides. Playing at UCF means they didn’t exactly play against the most competitive programs and players. But each one of these players has something they could bring to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2021 NFL Draft. All three are likely to be drafted in the first three rounds, so the Chiefs can likely target at least one of them without having to trade up. At the end of the day, making the playoffs every year means the top defensive backs are almost always drafted before your team gets to select. If the Chiefs aspire to build a secondary for long-term success, it will be with quality-albeit-underhyped players like Grant, Robinson and Gowan.