How Do Chiefs Attack 2022 Wide Receiver Need?

For the second straight offseason, the need to add to the wide receiver room is ripe for the Kansas City Chiefs. Not many new pieces were brought in last offseason. Names like
Demarcus Robinson and Marcus Kemp returned to the fold once again as depth options. Byron Pringle assumed a larger role and was often a crucial piece of the offense.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs bought low on an addition like Daurice Fountain. They did not draft a wide receiver until late on day three of the 2021 NFL Draft as well, by selecting Cornell Powell. He was subjected to the practice squad for further development.

While some of those names achieved certain spurts of success, the Chiefs know they must make bigger impacts at wide receiver in 2022. That may also mean that the team will have to spend more premium investments on the position. No matter which route they choose, the ultimate goal must be to surround Patrick Mahomes with as much talent as possible.

Will Kansas City look to add wide receivers in free agency? Or, will they make a big-time trade for a veteran on a rebuilding team? Could it be a combination of one of those, while also investing in a wide receiver early in the 2022 NFL Draft? We will go through each of those options, while also looking at the Chiefs recent history surrounding the position.

Chiefs Could Add Multiple Pass Catchers

Before we list the routes that the Chiefs could take by adding to the position, let’s see what the wide receiver depth chart currently looks like. The top four 2021 reception leaders of Kansas City’s wide receivers were Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Pringle and Robinson. Both Pringle and Robinson are due for unrestricted free agency in a couple of weeks. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that Kemp is back as a restricted free agent.

Names like Josh Gordon and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Justin Watson are signed to reserve/futures deals with the Chiefs. However, expecting any concrete results from those two is a bit boisterous. We should also mention that both Hill and Hardman are due for unrestricted free agency next offseason too. As a result, the Chiefs are not just needing to add at wide receiver for 2022. They will need to retool for the future as well.

Plenty Of Valuable Options On The Table

Almost every offseason, teams have a fairly strong list of free agents and draft prospects to choose from at wide receiver. There are always going to be meaningful options that pose as big-ticket names in free agency. The same could be said for names that are ready to breakout. Nevertheless, it feels like this year’s group of available wide receivers may be one of the deepest in recent history.

Free Agency

Let’s start with free agency. It is truly the first phase that NFL teams think about when building their new roster at the start of each and every offseason. As mentioned above, there are plenty of household names available, as well as buy low candidates that possess plenty of potential. The Chiefs are not as deep as some teams are with 2022 salary cap space. Yet, we know how large of a swing that Kansas City general manager Brett Veach is willing to take with his chance at the plate.

I think this is the most likely way that the Chiefs will add a new wide receiver for 2022. Of course, that will likely be the first route that they will be afforded to add at the position. The team also has the chance to open up more salary cap space too. If they do so, do not rule out the chance that they sign multiple free agent wide receivers this offseason.

There are many names that jump out as potential wide receiver fits with Kansas City. But, it feels like there is a more realistic handful to keep an eye on. This includes guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Gallup, DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds or Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Trade Options

This time of year always increases the odds of certain trades being made around the NFL. The wide receiver position actually presents more names that could be available, compared to most seasons. Here are five possible trade acquisitions that the Chiefs could make at wide receiver this offseason.

Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

The expectation is that Calvin Ridley will likely be dealt away by the Falcons. However, there is no guarantee that he is ready to return to the field. Ridley stepped away from Atlanta midway through the 2021 season in order to focus on mental health. If he is ready to return, the Falcons could receive many suitable trade offers.

He has long been one of the league’s most productive receivers since stepping into the league as a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. His last full season in 2020 resulted in single season career highs in receptions (90), receiving yards (1,374), yards per reception (15.3) and yards per target (9.6). Ridley also registered nine touchdowns.

Ridley would likely cost the most of these five names in return within a possible trade package. He would be playing on a fifth-year option in 2022. Essentially on the last year of his rookie deal, Ridley is due for a salary of $11.1 million.

Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans

The word trade would be nothing new for a veteran wide receiver like Brandin Cooks. He has played for four teams in his career (New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Texans). How has he changed from one team to another? Every time, it has been due to a trade between two franchises. For a guy that has been moved like that three times, he has sure remained productive.

During the course of his eight-year career, Cooks has averaged 71.6 receptions, 989.6 receiving yards, 5.75 receiving touchdowns and 13.7 yards per reception per season. This wide receiver has routinely won deep down the field and surprises in contested catch situations. Odds are, the Chiefs could move a day two pick in order to get a trade like this done. Cooks is due for a base salary of $12.5 million in 2022.

DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins

The career of DeVante Parker has been up and down so far. He has dealt with many injuries. Yet, Parker is not too far removed from his best season in 2019. He hauled in 72 passes that year for 1,202 receiving yards and had nine touchdowns. There is one caveat that came with that stellar season. Most of that production came with Ryan Fitzpatrick garnering the quarterback position.

Parker has seen much more inconsistent results with Tua Tagovailoa. Stylistically, it is just not a good match between the current Dolphins quarterback and the wide receiver. Miami has also undergone a regime change by bringing in new head coach Mike McDaniel. Perhaps, now is the prime opportunity for Parker to receive a change of scenery. He is signed for the next two seasons and his cap hits are relatively cheap. For instance, those cap hits read as $8.744 million in 2022 and $9 million in 2023.

Darius Slayton, New York Giants

Many teams could be after the services of Darius Slayton. Sure, his production has tapered off in recent years. Slayton has never had tremendous quarterbacks to play with, though. Like Parker, he is also currently on a team that has hired a new head coach in Brian Daboll.

Slayton would be relatively cheap, as his 2022 base salary is $2.54 million. He has also proven that he can win in all three levels of the field. Possibly, Veach would be willing to take that kind of chance, given that it holds little to no risk.

Denzel Mims, New York Jets

This feels like the type of player that Veach has gone after in numerous trades. While not a former first-round pick, Denzel Mims was drafted relatively early by the Jets in 2020. A second-round pick out of Baylor, Mims has registered just 31 receptions, 490 receiving yards and 15.8 yards per reception in 20 games played. He also does not have a touchdown catch to his name yet.

This is a player who may not feel as available as the others. Nonetheless, the Jets have not been as patient to make swift moves under their new leadership. They may feel like Mims is damaged goods, so to speak, within their system. Why not acquire at least something in return and move on?

2022 NFL Draft

We do not have to go too in-depth with this option. The draft options at wide receiver could look appealing at seemingly any spot when Kansas City is on the clock. If anything, the Chiefs cannot wait as long as they did last year, if they are going to draft a wide receiver. Maybe the draft board will fall just right for them this upcoming April.

Recent Wide Receiver Investments Have Been Sparse

During the time that Veach has been Chiefs GM, the major wide receiver investments have been minimal. The only major contract that Kansas City dished out to someone at the position was in 2018. Sammy Watkins signed with the Chiefs on a three-year deal for a total of $48 million. Certainly, Watkins had his stellar moments. There was also a certain ceiling that he was capped at with Kansas City, from both a health and production perspective.

Veach has also only spent two draft picks on a wide receiver throughout his four offseasons as GM. That includes the aforementioned Powell (2021 sixth-round pick) and Hardman (2019 second-round pick). The last time the Chiefs drafted a wide receiver in the first round? That was all the way back in 2011. Jonathan Baldwin was the selection at 26th overall out of Pittsburgh. He was largely a bust for Kansas City.

Furthermore, Kansas City had only selected seven other wide receivers since then before Veach became general manager. Only one of those seven picks were top 100 selections, however. That was Chris Conley in 2015, who was taken 76th overall. The results were largely disappointing or limited with those seven. Others during that time span never even made a blip on the radar. The time is now for them to invest earlier in the draft, if the Chiefs opt to go that route.

Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout this week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.