There wasn’t a lot of positivity to come out of Super LV for the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a ugly game and there’s no need to rehash any of that. However, shortly after the game ended, the Chiefs were already slotted as the betting favorites to get back to the Super Bowl — and win it — in 2022.
The Chiefs opened up the offseason at +550, followed by the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at +900. The closest AFC teams, the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills, are both slated at +1200.
With the rest of the AFC looking up at the back-to-back conference champions, the target will still be squarely on the Chiefs’ back as they try to make it back to a third Super Bowl in a row. What can the Chiefs do to make sure they make themselves back-to-back-to-back AFC champs?
1. Bolster the offensive line
This has to be at the top of the list after what we witnessed in the Super Bowl. Yes, Mitchell Schwartz could come back at right tackle. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out to work on the front lines of COVID-19 care, should be back to fill one of the holes at guard. Rookie Lucas Niang, who also opted out, was expected to be a potential tackle of the future in Kansas City and could fill in for Eric Fisher as he recovers from his Achilles injury. There are potential players who weren’t a part of the Super Bowl loss who could step in as well, but it would be wise to add some depth with an early draft pick or through free agency. Maybe both.
2. Add a true third receiving option
As the postseason came to a close, Mahomes was locked in on wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce — for good reason, as they are the elite weapons in this offense. However, throughout Mahomes’ young career, he has been known for spreading the ball around when necessary and going through his different options for each play. When Sammy Watkins was healthy and played a majority of the games in his first season in Kansas City, Mahomes threw for 50 touchdown passes and 5,000 yards. Could there be a correlation to having a third true receiving threat alongside the elite pass catchers on the squad? I think so.
What are the options? Watkins could come back on another cheap one-year deal. Mecole Hardman hasn’t proven he can take over games when called upon. Byron Pringle could be given an expanded workload, but his ceiling seems limited. Drafting another wide receiver option in the top 100 picks of the draft could be a solution. Adding another receiving option via free agency isn’t out of the question as well.
3. Beef up the pass rush
Chris Jones and Frank Clark are taking up a lot of money along the defensive line. The Chiefs will need to get creative here. They could add another pass rusher with one of their picks in the top 100 picks of the draft. They could also look to add a free agent like JJ Watt or Von Miller who are looking to go to a contender, which brings us to the next key…
4. Capitalize on the “Mahomes effect”
The Chiefs are in a unique situation that doesn’t come around very often in the NFL. In recent memory, only the New England Patriots have had the makings of a legitimate dynasty as a team where free agents could decide to take less on their paycheck for the chance to play for a contender with the hopes of winning a Super Bowl. With the COVID-19 pandemic and a salary cap that is set to be less than expected, some free agents could be looking to take cheaper one-year deals on a contending team. This could be a worthwhile strategy for some players to consider before jumping into free agency when teams could be willing to spend more in 2022. It is possible the Chiefs could land a veteran free agent wide receiver, pass rusher or offensive lineman on a cheaper deal than in years past due to all of the factors listed above. The window for the Chiefs to capitalize with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid is here right now.
5. Keep Mahomes healthy
This seems obvious, but Mahomes needs to remain healthy if the Chiefs are going to get back to the Super Bowl. They avoided disaster in 2019 when Mahomes played on a bum ankle through the first part of the season before missing a few games due to a freak kneecap dislocation. Mahomes was able to bounce back and lead them to a Super Bowl victory. He was knocked out of the game in the divisional round against the Cleveland Browns this postseason due to concussion protocol. He had a lingering turf toe issue throughout the playoffs, which required surgery shortly after the Super Bowl. Despite heroic efforts from Matt Moore and Chad Henne the past couple of seasons, Mahomes needs to stay as healthy as possible for the Chiefs to have their optimal chance to make it back to the big game.
The Chiefs are still the most talented and battle-tested team in the AFC. General manager Brett Veach and company should be able to put the pieces in place this offseason to make another run at their third-consecutive AFC Championship. If they can win another Lamar Hunt trophy and get back to the Super Bowl, the redemption story will be theirs for the taking.