— The Kansas City Chiefs and the 31 other NFL teams must pare down their rosters from 90 players to just 53 before 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. That means 1,184 will hit the waiver wire, receiver their outright release or join the teams’ reserved lists within 48 hours of Thursday’s preseason finales.
The Chiefs already began shortening their roster Thursday afternoon with the release of tackle Jah Reid. The Chiefs also have players such as running back Spencer Ware and rookie cornerback Ashton Lampkin who appear headed for reserve lists with likely season-ending injuries.
The cutdown never proves easy for coaches and executives, and this year’s cut becomes more active than ever. The NFL eliminated the initial cut to 75 players, meaning most cuts come this weekend following the end of the preseason.
How will the Chiefs roster look heading to New England next Thursday? Here’s a projection of the team the club may field for the season opener:
On the roster: Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes and Tyler Bray
Cut: Joel Stave
Practice squad candidates: Stave
The only real drama at quarterback remains the remote possibility the team could keep two active quarterbacks with Smith and Mahomes and stash Stave on the practice squad. That seems a risky proposition but the possibility remains.
RUNNING BACK (4)
On the roster: Kareem Hunt, C.J. Spiller, Charcandrick West and Anthony Sherman
Cut: Devine Redding
Practice squad candidates: None
Injured reserve: RB Spencer Ware
The once clouded running back picture looks seemingly clear for now. The possibility exists the Chiefs scour the waiver wire for an experienced short-yardage and goal-line back with Ware likely out for the season. But the team seems comfortable heading into the season with their stable of three backs for now.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
On the roster: Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, De’Anthony Thomas, Jehu Chesson, and Demarcus Robinson
Cut: Marcus Kemp, Gehrig Dieter, Seantavius Jones, Tevin Jones, Tony Stevens and Robert Wheelwright
Practice squad candidates: Kemp and Dieter
Hill, Conley, Wilson and Thomas seem certain locks and Chesson a virtual lock as well. The sixth wide receiver remains a tight competition. Robinson appeared the early leader, then Jones joined the battle. Now Kemp appears charging at the wire. Robinson closed the preseason strongly, and that may have sealed the deal Wouldn’t surprise if team even found a way to keep a seventh receiver with so many valuable special teams contributors. Kemp looks like a keeper for sure.
TIGHT END (4)
On the roster: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, Ross Travis and Gavin Escobar
Cut: Orson Charles
Practice squad candidates: None
Travis seems the team’s likely third tight end. The question remains whether the Chiefs keep four tight ends. Another waiver wire could put the team in the market for a blocking tight. Escobar’s experience and consistency gives him the edge over Charles and his flexibility to play fullback and H-back. It’s a tight call, however.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
On the roster: Eric Fisher, Mitch Morse, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz, Zach Fulton, Bryan Witzmann, Parker Ehinger and Cameron Erving
Cut: Mike Person, Isaiah Battle, Donald Hawkins, Andrew Tiller, Josh James, Jordan Devey, Damien Mama and Joseph Cheek
Practice squad candidates: Mama
The acquisition of Erving appears to set the offensive line. Witzmann seems likely to fill in at left guard until Ehinger returns to full health from his knee injury. That leaves Fulton as the super sub anywhere on the line and Erving the swing tackle. Once Ehinger returns, Witzmann can fill in at tackle and guard if needed.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
On the roster: Allen Bailey, Bennie Logan, Chris Jones, Roy Miller, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Jarvis Jenkins
Cut: Cam Thomas, David King, Rick Ali’fua, Maurice Swain
Practice squad candidates: Ali’fua
The Chiefs like to rotate their defensive lineman by down and position but Logan and Miller give them two natural tackles. Jenkins edges out Thomas and King for the final spot.
On the roster: Justin Houston, Dee Ford, Frank Zombo, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Derrick Johnson, Ramik Wilson, Reggie Ragland, Ukeme Eligwe and Kevin Pierre-Louis
Cut: Earl Okine, Marcus Rush, Justin March-Lillard, Terrance Smith
Reserve/PUP List: Tamba Hali and Dadi Nicolas
Practice squad candidates: Smith
Kpassagnon seems to have made the switch to a linebacker who occasionally lines up as a five-technique defensive end. That transition asks more questions about the club’s plans for Hali. The veteran remains on the PUP list and hasn’t practiced all camp and preseason. The likelihood he starts the season the PUP list is high, and that could have been the team’s plan all along. Putting Hali on the PUP list allows him to rest and join the team later in the season. That could allow the Chiefs to get the most out of Hali late in the year and in the postseason. The inside linebacker group looks crowded but the Chiefs need Wilson to fill in while Ragland gets up to speed. The Chiefs like the upside of both Eligwe and Pierre-Louis.
On the roster: Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson, Terrance Mitchell, Phillip Gaines, De’Vante Bausby and Kenneth Acker
Cut: D.J. White, Trevon Hartfield, Larry Scott
Practice squad candidates: White
Injured reserve: Ashton Lampkin and Jacoby Glenn
Looks like a three-way battle for the final two cornerback spots between Bausby, Acker and White. White, a sixth-round pick last season, appears to have fallen to third in the race based on recent preseason games and snap counts. Lampkin showed flashes as an undrafted rookie and may be worth stashing on injured reserve and testing again next season. The team didn’t get to see much from Glenn before his concussion.
On the roster: Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Daniel Sorensen and Eric Murray
Cut: Leon McQuay and Steven Terrell
Practice squad candidates: McQuay
The top four safeties look locked in, the only question rests with whether the Chiefs have seen enough from McQuay to justify a roster spot. The team could bring him back on the practice squad if he clears waivers. Terrell impressed in limited snaps but gets caught up in the numbers game. McQuay sustained a stinger in the season finale against Tennessee, and that could give the team the option to place him on injured reserve.
On the roster: K Cairo Santos, P Dustin Colquitt and LS James Winchester
Cut: Sam Ficken
Practice squad candidates: Ficken
The only drama with the team’s specialists focuses on the groin injury of Santos. If the team believes Santos ready to go, the club moves on without Ficken, who filled in during Santos’ absence. Ficken remains a possibility for the practice squad if the Chiefs need an insurance policy or want to keep the practice workload for Santos light over the first week or two of the season.