When the Chiefs parted ways with former GM John Dorsey last summer, it sent shock waves throughout the Chiefs Kingdom. While Dorsey had certainly made some missteps with player contracts and the salary cap, he and Andy Reid had also just strung together four straight winning seasons and three playoff appearances. When Brett Veach was tabbed to replace him through internal promotion, there were plenty of questions that needed to be answered.
How would this young, relatively inexperienced first-time GM handle the responsibilities?
Would he simply be a yes-man to Andy Reid in personnel decisions?
Would KC regret not giving the job to Chris Ballard a year earlier?
While at this stage it is still far too early to determine just how good of a GM Veach actually is, but one thing is certain: Brett Veach is a GM unlike any we’ve seen in Kansas City before.
Veach is surprisingly and refreshingly open and up front about the moves that he makes. As a Chiefs fan who entered the Kingdom in the 90s like so many others, I have seen only three GM’s lead the Chiefs: Carl Peterson, Scott Pioli and Dorsey. While all three men have very different personalities, none of them were ever forthright in their opinions and all gave non-answers to good questions consistently. Reid himself is the king on the non-answer, so the fact that Veach, a Reid protégé says as much as he does is a pleasant change of pace.
Veach also has been highly aggressive making trades. There are obviously some big headliners this year, but I’d prefer to go in order from when he was hired on July 10, 2017.
Trade one: Veach claims the first call he made was to the Dallas Cowboys to try to get Anthony Hitchens away from them. While that trade ultimately did not occur, Veach managed to add depth to the ILB corps by shipping special teams-only LB D.J. Alexander to the Seahawks for ILB Kevin Pierre-Louis. Pierre-Louis wasn’t a star, but he was a much more effective defensive player than Alexander. This trade was completed on July 28th, less than three weeks into the job.
Trade two: Veach made a move late in the preseason on August 28th by trading a 2019 4th round pick to the Bills for ILB Reggie Ragland. A 2nd round draft selection the previous year, Ragland missed his rookie year with an injury. Ragland showed a lot of promise in his first year as a Chief and is inked in as a starter going into 2018.
Trade three: Veach wasn’t done making moves as two days after the Ragland trade, he sent a 5th round choice in 2018 to the Browns for OT/C Cameron Erving. A 1st round selection in 2015, Erving was a bust in Cleveland, but provided the Chiefs with badly needed depth and versatility on the OL. There’s still upside there with Erving, and the cost was low.
Trades four and five: Still on a roll with trades, just two days after the Erving trade, Veach traded bubble players OT Isaiah Battle and DE David King to the Seahawks and Titans respectively for conditional 7th round choices in 2018. Battle ended up netting us nothing, but the Titans will surrender their 7th rounder this year to KC for King.
Trade six and seven: Made official at the outset of free agency, the Chiefs traded QB Alex Smith to the Redskins for CB Kendall Fuller and a 3rd round pick in 2018. This trade was announced during Super Bowl week. CB Marcus Peters was sent to the Rams, along with a 6th round pick in 2018, for a 4th round pick in 2018 and a 2nd round pick in 2019. While both trades were controversial due to the star power involved, the Chiefs come away smelling like roses. Peters likely was not long for KC one way or the other and the Chiefs got three fantastic seasons out of him on the cheap and move on from him before he became expensive. Fuller is a nice start to replacing the talent at CB, meanwhile, the Chiefs really beefed up their 2018 draft power by securing extra 3rd and 4th round picks. This is crucial in a year where the Chiefs will not have a selection in the 1st round.
Seven trades in eight months is aggressive. There is also a pattern to these trades as Veach has only acquired players who are currently on their rookie contract, meaning, he is acquiring inexpensive, high-end upside whenever he makes a move.
Veach has also calmly addressed the biggest media freakout talking points of the off-season: lack of cap space and lack of draft picks.
The Chiefs entered 2018 with a draft board that looked like this:
7th round (from Arizona for Marcus Cooper, trade occurred in 2016)
Down picks in the 1st (Patrick Mahomes), 5th (Cameron Erving) and 7th (Kenneth Acker), the Chiefs did not look like a team that would be able to accomplish much in the draft. After the King compensation kicked in, the Smith and Peters trades were completed, and the NFL awarded a compensatory 6th rounder for the loss of QB Nick Foles in free agency, their board now looks much healthier.
That’s plenty of ammunition to make an impact on the roster. Veach has also navigated the salary cap perfectly. While removing the salary of Smith from the equation was key, Veach also wisely parted ways with future Ring of Honor Chiefs in ILB Derrick Johnson and OLB Tamba Hali. He didn’t hold onto his first major free agent acquisition in CB Darrelle Revis and also moved on from FS Ron Parker, who was becoming too expensive to justify.
As a result of these moves, the Chiefs, who were supposed to be in cap hell, were able to add CB David Amerson, WR Sammy Watkins, ILB Anthony Hitchens, QB Chad Henne and DT Xavier Williams. Henne was added for a veteran presence behind Mahomes, the rest of these guys are 26 years old or younger, showing us that Veach’s plan is clearly about adding talent while that talent is in physical prime. This is also the case in under-the-radar moves like the addition of TE Jace Amaro (2nd round pick by the Jets in 2014) and CB Will Redmond (3rd round pick of the 49ers in 2016). I will never take issue with the Chiefs adding a former high draft pick still in his early to mid-20s on a prove-it deal. The more of these darts they throw the better in my opinion.
The Chiefs also were able to solidify their special teams and retained WR De’Anthony Thomas, ILB Terrance Smith, FB Anthony Sherman and P Dustin Colquitt. This is sure to please Special Teams Coach Dave Toub, who once again got passed over for head coaching gigs this year. Gotta keep the man happy while he’s here! All four players play a crucial role as Smith and Sherman play all phases of special teams, Thomas is an excellent gunner on punt coverage and depth at both kickoff and punt returner, and Colquitt is still a top 10 punter in the NFL.
The Chiefs under Veach seem like a more electric franchise than they have been in years. Will the results be positive? Time will tell, but so far, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Chiefs this year, and we’ve barely even discussed a certain young gunslinger who is about to take over the offense.