Top 5 Chiefs free agents whose exits could hamstring Kansas City in 2024 ft. Chris Jones

Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones

While a dynasty is underway, losing key Chiefs free agents could derail their ability to become the first NFL to win three straight Super Bowl titles. Luckily, they have three-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes locked in for the long term thanks to his ten-year contract extension that could be worth up to $503 million.

However, a quarterback can only do so much, and he needs help from other positions to clinch more victories and championships. Therefore, Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has much work to do during the 2024 offseason, especially in managing their salary cap situation.

Patrick Mahomes will be essential in retaining other Chiefs free agents

While he still has eight years left in his contract, Patrick Mahomes will count for a whopping $58.6 million against the projected salary cap for 2024. While the exact cap remains unknown, it’s still a massive cap hit, hindering their ability to re-sign other key players.

The Chiefs will find a way to restructure the All-Pro quarterback’s deal, giving them more financial freedom to re-sign other important roster pieces. Once they get that cap space, they must prioritize bringing back these five players.

#5 – Willie Gay, LB

Linebacker Willie Gay
Linebacker Willie Gay

The Chiefs signed Willie Gay to a four-year, $5.27 million contract after selecting him in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. Since then, he has been one of the team’s reliable starters at linebacker. In 2022, he had career highs in sacks (2.5) and total tackles (88).

However, he will be one of the Chiefs free agents during the 2024 offseason because he doesn’t have a fifth-year option. Kansas City must re-sign him because he has been a valuable contributor on defense, especially in stopping intermediate throws and weak-side run plays.

#4 – Drue Tranquill, LB

Linebacker Drue Tranquill
Linebacker Drue Tranquill

While Gay takes care of the weak side, Tranquill is the Chiefs' enforcer on the strong side. The former Notre Dame standout had 78 tackles, seven quarterback hits, 4.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in 16 regular-season games.

But he is on a one-year, $3 million contract after playing four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. Like other Chiefs free agents, his contract will expire once the 2024 league year starts on March 13. But Tranquill’s output makes it wise for them to retain his services.

#3 – Donovan Smith, LT

Offensive lineman Donovan Smith
Offensive lineman Donovan Smith

Last February 9, New York Post’s Mark Cannizzaro wrote that the left tackle dreams of signing with his favorite team, the New York Jets. With the Jets’ offensive line riddled with questions and inconsistency, they might consider signing him.

But as one of the Chiefs free agents, re-signing him is a no-brainer, unless they have a succession plan at left tackle. Smith had a shaky outing early in Super Bowl 58, especially against Chase Young. But he has protected Mahomes’ blind side more often than not while under a one-year, $3 million contract.

#2 – L’Jarius Sneed, CB

Cornerback L'Jarius Sneed
Cornerback L'Jarius Sneed

According to NFL's Next Gen Stats, through January 2024, Sneed didn’t allow a touchdown catch in 90 targets as the nearest defender. Likewise, Pro Football Focus shared that he held opposing receivers to 42 catches for 406 yards and zero scores. He shut down the best wideouts while earning a $2.7 million base salary.

Sneed is one of the Chiefs free agents worthy of receiving a raise for his next contract. He has exceeded expectations despite being a fourth-round selection in 2020. He is a significant part of Kansas City’s stifling defense, and letting him go would be an enormous mistake.

#1 – Chris Jones, DT

Defensive tackle Chris Jones
Defensive tackle Chris Jones

Jones’s contract holdout lasted until Week 1 of the 2023 season when the Chiefs lost to the Detroit Lions on opening night. After this, he signed a one-year contract to rejoin the team that selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft.

After being a massive contributor during the team’s successful Super Bowl title defense, he is one of the Chiefs free agents worthy of getting top dollar. Jones had 30 tackles, 29 quarterback hits, 10.5 sacks, and four passes defended while playing as an interior offensive lineman.

It would be hard to replicate his talent and impact on defense, making him a must-sign for the Chiefs at all costs.

Complete list of Chiefs free agents in 2024

In addition to the previously mentioned, below are the other Chiefs players whose contracts expire after the 2023 NFL season closes.

  • WR Mecole Hardman
  • S Mike Edwards
  • RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  • P Tommy Townsend
  • G Nick Allegretti
  • DE Tershawn Wharton
  • T Prince Tega Wanogho
  • LS James Winchester
  • QB Blaine Gabbert
  • RB Jerick McKinnon
  • DT Derrick Nnadi
  • WR Richie James
  • TE Blake Bell
  • TE Jody Fortson
  • DE Michael Danna
  • DE Malik Herring
  • LB Jack Cochrane
  • CB Nazeeh Johnson
  • G Mike Caliendo

As of February 2024, they have $24 million in cap space to sign impending Chiefs free agents, the 15th biggest among all NFL teams. Barring any trades, they will have six picks in the 2024 draft, including the 32nd overall selection as reigning Super Bowl victors.

Quick Links

Edited by Lance Fernandez