L’Jarius Sneed to IR: What are Kansas City’s Options?

On Wednesday, the Kansas City Chiefs announced they intended to place rookie CB L’Jarius Sneed on IR with a broken collarbone.

Sneed sustained the injury during Monday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Sneed had come on strong as a rookie, filling in for suspended CB Bashaud Breeland. He notched two interceptions and allowed only four receptions in coverage to go along with three pass-breakups. Unfortunately, he now will miss at least three weeks with the injury, but is likely done for the season due to the nature of his injury.

On top of Breeland’s suspension and Sneed’s injury, KC’s opposite starting CB, Charvarius Ward, fractured his hand in Week 1 against the Houston Texans. Ward did not play against the Los Angeles Chargers, but played 59% of the defensive snaps against the Ravens. Ward isn’t at 100%, so Kansas City will be in a bind for their Week 4 game against the Patriots.

(Editor’s Note: At press time, the Week 4 match-up between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots has been postponed due to reported positive cases of COVID-19 on both teams. The NFL has announced that the game will be rescheduled for a date to be determined.)

So, lets take a look at their options.

Kansas City Chiefs Safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers on February 2, 2020.
Photo Credit: Kansas City Chiefs

Current Roster

Outside of Ward, the only other healthy corners on the Chiefs roster are Rashad Fenton, BoPete Keyes, and Antonio Hamilton, who have a combined four starts between them. Keyes has only been active for one game in his career. Fenton and Hamilton haven’t shined when they get to the field either, which suggests that Kansas City will try their best to keep them from starting.

As for the KC practice squad, it isn’t exactly inspiring.

Which it shouldn’t be.

Because it’s the practice squad.

Anyway.

The current two CBs on the practice squad are Chris Lammons, a 2018 UDFA, and Lavert Hill, a 2020 UDFA. Lammons played in 12 games for the Miami Dolphins in 2019, registering 13 tackles, three pass-breakups, and one interception. He allowed two touchdowns and a 124.0 rating when targeted, showing he can’t cut it as a starting option.

Fortunately, they have another option, at least when in nickel formations. Safety Tyrann Mathieu has shown he has the versatility to not only play in the slot, but to do it at a very high level. At the very least, Kansas City can rely on moving him to the slot and Tedric Thompson in the official “safety” role alongside Juan Thornhill.

Still, this leaves the issue of having a boundary corner — which is entirely different from someone who plays in the slot, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise — which means that Kansas City will most likely promote from their practice squad, or they’ll do the smart thing and sign a current free agent.

Free Agents

Prince Amukamara

Speaking of free agents, look at that! There actually happens to be quite a few quality options on the market. At the top of those is Prince Amukamara, most recently of the now-Las Vegas Raiders, although he was cut before the season started.

In 2019, while playing for the Chicago Bears, he totaled 10 pass break-ups, 53 tackles, and a forced fumble. His career-high in interceptions is tied at three from 2014 and 2018, and most importantly, he has had success playing as an outside corner. Bringing him in would be a potential upgrade over Breeland, even when he’s back from suspension, giving the Chiefs some nice cushion in the secondary, should another injury occur. As the great Ozzie Newsome once said, “You can never have too many corners.”

trumaine-return-E_1D2_7295
Photo Credit: New York Jets

Trumaine Johnson

Johnson parlayed a good-but-not-great career with the Los Angeles Rams into a MASSIVE contract from former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, where he was, erm… not good.

Granted, his first year wasn’t bad by any means. In just 10 games, he registered four interceptions alongside five pass break-ups, a forced fumble, and a touchdown. But, he was a completely different player in year two. Playing in only seven games, Johnson registered just one interception and two pass break-ups while allowing a 74% completion rate and a 94.5 passer rating when targeted. In short, he became a liability and was released the following year.

Now, the Jets have become where NFL careers go to die, so it might not be a fair assessment to say he’s completely washed. The Chiefs could bring him in for a tryout and see if his talent is still there, giving him a chance to revive his career in Kansas City, and he wouldn’t be the first former-Jets DB to do so. (Looking at you, Darrelle Revis.) If the price is right and he still has some fuel in the tank, Johnson could be a legitimate option for the Chiefs secondary.

Tramon Williams

This could simply be a veteran signing for a young CB room, but Williams may still have some left in the tank. With a Pro Bowl nod and 34 career interceptions, the 37-year-old has yet to announce his retirement and could provide valuable leadership while being a temporary stopgap in 2020.

In 2019 he played for the Green Bay Packers, playing in all 16 games while starting seven. In those games, he racked up two interceptions and eight pass break-ups while allowing a 79.3 rating in coverage.

Williams could very well step in and start for a Chiefs team that is thin in talent and leadership at the position, both of which could prove invaluable. The worst case scenario is that he comes in, looks like burnt toast for a game, and is cut when Breeland comes back from his suspension next week. This is a low-risk, high-reward move that Kansas City would be wise to make.

The Baltimore Ravens defeated the New England Patriots by a score of 37-20 during Sunday Night Football at M&T Bank Stadium on November 3, 2019 in Baltimore, MD.
Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Earl Thomas III

Let me be very clear: the Kansas City Chiefs should not sign Earl Thomas. PERIOD.

There are a lot of reasons, but people like to argue so here they are in no particular order:

  1. He is not a corner. He is a safety.
  2. Tyrann Mathieu cannot play as an outside corner, at least not consistently. Kansas City would still be missing a boundary corner.
  3. Kansas City runs more double-high than single-high formations, meaning there would be a similar problem with the Chiefs as there were with the Ravens.
  4. He does not fit the culture. Yes, the Chiefs still employ Frank Clark and Tyreek Hill, and at one point Kareem Hunt, who have all had despicable pasts. There is no “but,” as there is no excuse for their actions. Clark and Hill have both seemed committed to being in open communication with the team and fixing their behavior. But back to Thomas: his issues are vastly different. With an incredibly young team, it would not bode well for the current culture to bring in an ego-centric player who doesn’t listen to coaches. On top of that, Andy Reid was John Harbaugh’s mentor, which also doesn’t bode well for his signing.

There. I addressed it. Kansas City should not, and most likely will not, sign Thomas. Now shut up about it.

(Author’s Note: They aren’t signing Deandre Baker. They just aren’t. Shush.)

A Trade

Kansas City’s final option would be to trade for a starter, which may be more likely than not, due to the Chiefs being in their Super Bowl window. The options for a trade aren’t as rich, but they still could provide quality depth once Bashaud Breeland returns.

Josh Jackson (Green Bay Packers)

After being a second-round pick in 2018, Jackson played only 10% of defensive snaps last year, losing time to Kevin King and rising star Jaire Alexander. Thus far in 2020, not much has changed, with Jackson relegated to special teams duties.

In the playing time Jackson has had, he’s shown to be about an average corner. He has zero interceptions so far in his career, with 11 passes defensed, 10 of those coming in his rookie season. Jackson has definitely shown flashes, and seeing as Green Bay has seemingly given up on the Iowa product, Kansas City could offer up a mid-round pick for the young CB who started 10 games his rookie season.

CB Anthony Averett
Credit to the Baltimore Ravens

Anthony Averett (Baltimore Ravens)

This may be less likely after the injury to CB Tavon Young, but Baltimore still has the deepest CB room in the league. With Averett behind two All-Pros in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, as well as starting-caliber veteran Jimmy Smith, he looks to be expendable in Baltimore’s system.

Wink Martindale showed his ability to overcome injuries by moving Humphrey into the slot and allowing Smith and Peters to play outside. This worked incredibly well for their defense last year, with Humphrey earning his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. While Averett had an off-game against the Texans in Week 2, he looked solid in coverage against the Chiefs Monday night.

Ultimately, it would come down to how comfortable John Harbaugh and Eric DeCosta are with their depth behind Averett, but a mid-round pick could be enough to bring him to Kansas City.

To Conclude

I highly doubt Kansas City makes a trade. The most likely option is they put Mathieu in the slot and sign the likes of Prince Amukamara or Tramon Williams (but I’m all aboard the Trumaine Johnson comeback train). Whoever is brought in, will most likely end up competing with Bashaud Breeland when he returns; but, whoever wins, Kansas City will be set with their depth for the rest of the year.

Leave a Reply