KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are several ways to build a championship-winning roster in the NFL.
Looking back at the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2019 Super Bowl-winning roster, the way that roster is built is a little similar to how the roster is constructed now.
Overall, the Super Bowl roster is comprised of 19 drafted players, six undrafted signees, 25 free agent signees and 10 players who were traded for.
Like many great teams, the Chiefs built their team through the NFL Draft. Core roster pieces like Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones and Tyreek Hill were draft picks that the team developed which allowed them to blossom into stars.
Key role players like offensive linemen Eric Fisher and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi also came to the team through the NFL Draft as well.
But hitting on trades and free agent signings is just as important as drafting the right players.
During the 2019 season, the Chiefs had several injured players that would need to be replaced: defensive ends Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah both suffered season-ending injuries while Fisher and left guard Andrew Wylie missed a few games with injuries.
This spurred the mid-season signings of Terrell Suggs and Stefen Wisniewski who came in and contributed.
Also offseason signings of Tyrann Mathieu, Sammy Watkins and Damien Wilson provided starter-level signings while Mike Pennel, LeSean McCoy and Morris Claiborne provided needed depth.
Trading for defensive end Frank Clark before the season added a premier pass rusher that the Chiefs needed after trading Dee Ford. Trades before the 2019 season for corners Charvarius Ward and Kendall Fuller also gave the Chiefs starting corners.
That season also marked defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s first year as the Chiefs switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3. This is also a significant reason for so many defensive free agent signings.
Now let’s compare this roster to the Chiefs’ current 2019 roster.
The current Chiefs roster is made up of 28 drafted players, eight undrafted signees, 20 free agent signees and three players that have been traded for.
When addressing the differences between the two rosters, it must first start with the makeup of the roster.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach was in his third year as the architect of the roster in 2019. Looking at both rosters, it seems pretty evident that Veach’s philosophy is to build the core pieces of the roster through the draft and fill in holes with free agents.
Part of the reason this roster comprises more drafted players than the Super Bowl roster is because of contracts.
The Chiefs elected to let several drafted players like Robinson, Byron Pringle and Armani Watts go into free agency while cutting other drafted players early in their rookie deals like Breeland Speaks and Darwin Thompson. Veach also elected to trade team stalwarts Mathieu and Hill.
The way he replaced them is key as well.
Veach chose to replace both players with free agents: Honey Badger with veteran Justin Reid and Hill with vets Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster along with drafted player Mecole Hardman. A recent trade for former first round pick Kadarius Toney could be looked at as another option as well.
Since losing Kpassagnoh, the Chiefs struggled to find another reliable pass rusher to go alongside Frank Clark. While Jones filled in, rookie George Karlaftis and free agent signee Carlos Dunlap are looked at to be remedies and so far this season they are performing well.
Drafting starting linebackers Willie Gay and Nick Bolton gives the team reliable players on defense along with corners L’Jarius Sneed, Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams. The play of rookies McDuffie, Watson and Williams inspired the team to trade drafted starter Rashad Fenton.
Veach’s draft success has led the team to need free agent signings less and less which can save teams money.
It also looks like the Chiefs will only trade for impact players. On the Super Bowl roster, offensive tackle Cameron Erving filled in with spot starts, Ward became a starter for several years before leaving and Clark was performing well before his two game suspension. Offensive tackle Orlando Brown is also expected to sign a long term contract with the team this season.
Kansas City hasn’t needed to fill many in season holes this season because impact injuries have been minimal and replacements have been on the roster already such as defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth filling in for Tershawn Wharton who suffered a torn ACL this season.
An NFL roster can change drastically in as little as three years and this proves that much. With Veach hitting on draft picks, it lessens the team’s need to make desperate moves in the draft, in free agency and at the trade deadline.
The Chiefs front office is a prime example of how a championship contending roster should look: draft starters that can become franchise cornerstones, sign experienced impact free agents and trade only when the price is right.