KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs knew their strengths and weaknesses entering Tuesday, the NFL’s cutdown day when rosters must be trimmed to 53 players.
Of course, the Chiefs made a few decisions that might have surprised their fans. Quarterback Shane Buechele, running back La’Mical Perine, tight end Matt Bushman, defensive end Joshua Kaindoh and guard Darian Kinnard didn’t make the initial roster. The same goes for a pair of veterans in defensive tackle Danny Shelton and safety Deon Bush.
The Chiefs, though, were in the market to make some trades. Early Tuesday, the Chiefs made their first move, trading receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who had an excellent preseason, to the Carolina Panthers for a 2024 conditional seventh-round pick. The Chiefs had a surplus at receiver, carrying seven on their initial roster even without Smith-Marsette.
The position with a shortage was clear as well. The Chiefs need defensive line help so badly that general manager Brett Veach and Andy Reid made a trade with the archrival Las Vegas Raiders on Tuesday. A few hours after the Smith-Marsette deal, they acquired second-year defensive tackle Neil Farrell for a 2024 sixth-round pick.
As a rookie last year, Farrell, a fourth-round pick, played just 158 snaps in nine games for the Raiders. Once he learns coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, Farrell is expected to play a lot more snaps this season for the Chiefs. One reason is the Chiefs could have plenty of opportunities for him.
New story. Joe Cullen is firing instructions at Felix Anudike-Uzomah at what would be a blistering pace for any rookie.
But Anudike-Uzomah is not just any rookie. He’s one the Chiefs must rely on faster than they anticipated. https://t.co/DcRnxU7qvi
— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) August 25, 2023
As expected, the Chiefs placed All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones on the did-not-report list, which opened a roster spot. By not reporting to training camp on time on July 21, Jones, who is holding out for a lucrative contract extension, has already accrued fines totaling $2 million for the 40 days he has missed. If Jones’ absence continues, he will continue to face a mandatory $50,000 fine each day, based on the new collective bargaining agreement, until Sunday.
Jones is seeking a new deal that will make him at least the second-highest-paid player at his position, according to a league source. Since the Chiefs ended their month-long training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., the negotiations between the parties have not progressed toward a deal, the source said.
“There’s been no communication,” Reid said last week. “But whatever happens, happens. If he’s not there, the game goes on, right? That’s how it works.”
If Jones doesn’t report to the Chiefs by Sunday, the first practice before their opening-night game against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 7, his availability for the game would be in serious jeopardy.
Without Jones, the Chiefs will rely heavily on Tershawn Wharton, a four-year veteran who is expected to play in his first game since rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. The next players on the depth chart are rookie Keondre Coburn, Matt Dickerson and Farrell.
Last week, Jones used his X account, formerly Twitter, to express that his holdout could last until Week 8. That’s the latest he can report to the team and still earn an accrued season to fulfill the last year in his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent next spring if he and the Chiefs cannot agree to a new deal.
The Chiefs are optimistic that Farrell, who at age 24 and still has two years left on his rookie contract, can develop into a reliable contributor under Spagnuolo and defensive line coach Joe Cullen. Before acquiring Farrell, the Chiefs had only one defensive tackle whose contract doesn’t end after the 2023 season: Coburn.
If Farrell has a successful first week with the Chiefs, he could be available for the team’s Week 2 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Farrell showed potential to create interior penetration with the Raiders, recording 12 tackles and two quarterback hits.
“God don’t make mistakes, forever blessed and highly favored,” Farrell wrote on his X account.
Why Chiefs coach Andy Reid runs the NFL’s hardest training camp
Ross makes the cut
Wide receiver Justyn Ross, who missed all of last season after foot surgery, was one of the young players who made the Chiefs’ initial roster.
Ross projects to be the seventh receiver on the roster, a first since Reid became the team’s coach in 2013. In the preseason, Ross produced six receptions on 15 targets for 59 yards, including two touchdowns.
“It’ll mean everything to me (to make the team), just because of everything I’ve been through,” Ross said Saturday after the team’s preseason finale. “It’ll be a great accomplishment for me.”
Justyn Ross in for 6️⃣
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2023
In 2018 as a freshman, Ross led Clemson with 1,000 receiving yards, including nine touchdowns, on just 46 receptions, despite never starting a game. Clemson won the national championship over Alabama with Ross catching six passes for 153 yards and a touchdown in the title game.
But the main reason Ross wasn’t selected in the NFL Draft last year was because of his medical history. Ross learned in the spring of 2020 that he had a previously undetected congenital fusion in his spine, which threatened to end his career. He had surgery to repair a bulging disk, went through an extensive rehab and had to wait a year and a half to return to the field. As a junior in 2021, Ross became Clemson’s primary slot receiver, a move that created favorable matchups. Ross played 51.7 percent of his snaps in the slot, according to Pro Football Focus. He led the team with 46 receptions, generating 514 yards and three touchdowns.
Even after signing with the Chiefs, Ross didn’t make it to training camp as a rookie. Instead, foot surgery ended his season before it began.
This year, though, Ross performed well in camp and earned an increased number of repetitions with the first-team offense, as he built a deep-ball connection with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“Obviously, everybody knows the fast start he had in college and then he got sidetracked by some injuries,” general manager Brett Veach said Saturday. “Last year, our training staff did a great job with him, bringing him back and giving him the time he needed. I think halfway through the OTAs, you really started to see it click and he started to get that confidence, that self-belief back. It’s continued on through training camp, so we’re certainly expecting big things from Justin this year.”
The Chiefs’ initial 53-man roster
Quarterback (2): Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
Running back (3): Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Wide receiver (7): Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Justin Watson, Richie James, Rashee Rice, Justyn Ross
Tight end (3): Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell
Offensive line (10): Donovan Smith, Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith, Jawaan Taylor, Nick Allegretti, Prince Tega Wanogho, Lucas Niang, Mike Caliendo, Wanya Morris
Defensive line (10): George Karlaftis, Derrick Nnadi, Mike Danna, Tershawn Wharton, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Malik Herring, Keondre Coburn, BJ Thompson, Matt Dickerson, Neil Farrell
Linebackers (6): Nick Bolton, Willie Gay, Drue Tranquill, Leo Chenal, Jack Cochrane, Cam Jones
Cornerback (5): L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson, Nic Jones
Safety (4): Justin Reid, Bryan Cook, Mike Edwards, Charmarri Conner
Special teams (3): Harrison Butker, Tommy Townsend, James Winchester
(Photo of Neil Farrell: Kevin Sabitus / Getty Images)
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