Chiefs should make Broncos a Godfather offer for Chris Harris
The Kansas City Chiefs are ripe for a mid-season trade, and there’s no better fit than the cornerback of a hated rival, Chris Harris.
With the month of October upon us, the NFL season has another four weeks worth of games to separate the wheat from the chaff. At that point, the NFL trade deadline—on October 29—will call out the league’s have-nots to get what they can for their assets from those who have what it takes to make a postseason run. For some teams, we can already predict their behavior.
While it’s hard to tell where some teams will stand regarding the league’s trade deadline—look no further than the AFC South where every single team is tied at 2-2 overall—it’s relatively easy to predict what the Kansas City Chiefs will do. Not only are they definite buyers at this year’s deadline, they’ve been linked with most defenders made available on the trade block for months.
While the names have changed from Patrick Peterson to Jalen Ramsey, the reality is that the Chiefs’ quest to add a bit more defensive star power is the worst kept secret about the league’s upcoming trade deadline. K.C. was reportedly in on Minkah Fitzpatrick before being outbid by the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’ve also had reported interest in Ramsey, and serious smoke linked the Chiefs to Peterson on more than one occasion in the last year.
When you hear someone revving their motor, they have a destination in mind.
The need at corner
A quick overview, for the uninitiated.
The reason the Chiefs have been linked with so many cornerbacks is that they are woefully thin in both depth and overall talent at the position for a Super Bowl contender. Each year they employ quarterback Patrick Mahomes under center, last year’s MVP, the expectation for Chiefs fans should be nothing short of Super Bowl glory—a tall order for a franchise 50 years removed from their last such appearance.
The Chiefs are already two games up in the AFC West and stand alone as one of three unbeaten teams left in this topsy-turvy NFL season. Their collection of offensive talent is the NFL’s best, so much so that they’ve averaged nearly 34 points per game without their All-Pro wide receiver, starting running back, and Pro Bowl left tackle for much/all of that span.
Yet when it comes to their pass defense, the Chiefs are woefully thin, as mentioned above. Bashaud Breeland has been a solid addition so far, but he’s on a one-year deal. Kendall Fuller is in his walk year and performing as if he’s got plenty of financial security to date. Mo Claiborne joins the roster on Sunday for his first game, but he’s also in town for a single season, and he also needs time to get into game shape. Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton are the only two cornerbacks under contract beyond this year—perhaps the single worst future cornerback core in the NFL.
The defense is still settling in under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and faces like Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu are learning how to lead in new environs. Bringing in further impact talent in the secondary would accelerate the process by eliminating the single biggest area of concern that still plagues a team hoping to hoist a Lombardi.
Money is available for an upgrade
The Chiefs have already been linked to Ramsey and Fitzpatrick this season and the rumors won’t settle until the Chiefs make their big move.
Another reason the Chiefs are mentioned so often goes beyond their need at cornerback. General manager Brett Veach actually completely restructured the team’s finances this offseason and cleared the books of several bad deals along with other big money deals for players who were still potentially productive (e.g. Dee Ford, Justin Houston). The end result is more money than the Chiefs have had in-season for a long time.
Even with a new contract extension wrapped for Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs have a shade under $22 million available to them this offseason. They have to think about Chris Jones‘ long-term security soon, and if they want to extend Fuller, some money is there as well. That said, there’s still room for a nice addition given that the Chiefs can backload any and all extensions they want to hand out in the coming months.
With that kind of money, the Chiefs could swallow any financial pill that another team wanted to serve them. They could take on an overpaid option that would keep them from having to give up important draft assets. They could also pull the trigger on a superstar who would cost them plenty
Finding the right corner
Here’s the thing for the Chiefs: at some point, they’ve got to stop swapping the most important asset in the NFL: cost-controlled young players.
In order to rewire the team’s pass rush, the Chiefs dealt first and second round picks to the Seattle Seahawks for the rights to lock up Frank Clark along the defensive front. The trade up for Patrick Mahomes cost them a first-round pick in 2018 after drafting him the previous year.
If the Chiefs were to meet the reported demands for a Jalen Ramsey, they’d likely lose their next couple first round picks along with a mid-round just to make up for the fact that the Jags would be importing picks likely near the end of the first round. While Ramsey’s talents would be worth it, he would also require a heavy financial commitment himself when the Chiefs are on the verge of also paying the piper for Mahomes’ long-term deal—a contract due in the next year or so.
Looking at the most successful teams at roster construction around the NFL, it’s clear that finding cost-controlled young talent is paramount when the quarterback extension kicks in. If the Chiefs next first round pick is in 2022, that’s going to present a very real roster problem—one that leaves the team shallow at several positions while still facing serious cap constraints.
This is what hurts about the trade rumors for Ramsey or Peterson in particular. Both players would undoubtedly elevate the Chiefs to another level entirely and would ease fears of Chiefs Kingdom about the state of the pass defense. It could even lead to a Super Bowl in the interim. That said, it could also seriously compromise the Chiefs’ chances to create something even more memorable: a real dynasty.
Chris Harris is the perfect target
The Chiefs certainly have the option of going all-in with their chips and grabbing a superstar at a position of need. No one would blame a title-starved franchise for making the boldest move possible.
The Chiefs also have the option of rolling the dice with the current cornerback crop and gamble that the addition of Mo Claiborne after a quarter season could give the roster just enough talent and depth.
Finally, the Chiefs could aim low on an addition by importing a player with questionable talent left in the tank (e.g. Josh Norman, Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins). These sorts of expensive veterans would eat cap space while saving draft assets. It would add depth and could be a talent boost via the ol’ change-of-scenery routine. Any such move would also draw a collective shrug from a fan base that’s seen one band-aid applied atop another at the position.
Introducing Chris Harris, cornerback for the Denver Broncos.
Those familiar with the AFC West may balk at the idea of the Broncos trading one of their best overall players to a division rival. Certainly, if John Elway had his druthers, he would ship Harris out of the entire conference. But when a team like the Broncos hit rock bottom and need to completely start over, which is exactly where Denver is at after the first four weeks, there’s a realignment of values that starts with simply getting as much as you can for what few assets you have left.
Right now, the Broncos are 0-4. They face the Chargers this week and the Chiefs in three weeks. They were already on life support before being surprised by the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. When they received news that Bradley Chubb was done for the season, it was the official “wheels came off” moment that snuffed out any glimmer of hope remaining in the Mile High City.
Even Harris knows that things are over, and he’s not remotely worried about letting his true feelings show when he said “thirteen more weeks for me” after Sundays’ game.
Harris is perfect for the Chiefs for a number of reasons:
1. Harris has made the Pro Bowl in four of the last five seasons, including 2018. He’s still playing at a very high level even as he’s past the age of 30, and his addition would instantly give the Chiefs a lockdown option in the secondary.
2. Harris has been here before. He’s won multiple Super Bowls with the Broncos and knows what it takes to not only get there but finish the job. That sort of experience would be a major hit in the locker room and on the field.
3. Harris is scheduled for unrestricted free agency next spring. He’s on a one-year, $12 million deal right now, which means the Chiefs likely wouldn’t have to forfeit a string of major picks in order to secure his services.
4. Harris is also a known quantity. The Chiefs have seen Harris up close twice a year since 2011. When compared with other potential imports, Harris would come with the least amount of mystery.
It’s hard to tell what would be a fair offer for the Chiefs, but if the Broncos are the sinking ship we believe they will be four weeks from now, it would be prudent for them to grab, say, a second round pick from the Chiefs in return for a year of Harris. The Broncos could even re-sign Harris in the spring and add him for another run with a retooled team armed with a set of high draft picks.
For the Chiefs, it would be the loss of a nice pick without securing anything real for the future, but it allows them to keep their most prized pick(s) moving forward while still striking the bold move for a championship this year. The money works out. The talent is needed. The experience is ideal. The Lombardi is within reach.