Trade Scenario With Rams Could Send Chiefs’ $45 Million Defender Packing in 2022

Javonte Williams, Anthony Hitchens

Getty Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens records a tackle on December 5, 2021.

We have seen a lot of Kansas City fans wondering, where are the Chiefs going to find the money to improve the roster this offseason with the contracts of players like Patrick Mahomes and Frank Clark clogging the cap?

It’s a great question, but it’s also one of the major reasons Brett Veach has been such a successful general manager in recent years. This front office has done a phenomenal job freeing up cap space using loopholes and restructures among other creative ways to find extra funds.

Of course, there’s nothing more effective than the old-fashioned way, and that’s moving on from players at opportune times. One potential “cap casualty” via trade or release this spring is linebacker Anthony Hitchens.

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Bleacher Report Suggests Deal With Super Bowl Champs

According to Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report, Hitchens is an “ideal” trade target for the Los Angeles Rams — who are fresh off a Super Bowl title in 2021. He reasoned:

The Rams have already proven they are willing to part with draft picks if it means putting their team in a better position to contend. Assuming they are able to convince Aaron Donald to run it back and can move some contracts around to get under the cap, they will have a roster that includes very few holes. One hole exists in the second level of the defense, though. Troy Reeder was graded by PFF as the 74th linebacker in the league. Kenny Young only played in seven games after playing six in 2020. The rest of the group is incredibly young.

That’s where Hitchens comes in. Ballentine continued: “Hitchens has plenty of playoff experience. He’s made 11 playoff starts with the Kansas City Chiefs and had a good season in coverage in 2021, only allowing a passer rating of 83.4 when targeted. The Chiefs might be eager to move on from Hitchens with both Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr. on the roster. If anything, he gives the Rams a veteran at the position who should jell with an already veteran-laden defense.”

The proposal makes a ton of sense for KC but it’s unclear if the Rams can afford to take on another aging contract. After a championship, they may be looking to shed cap, not add it — Hitchens is projected at a $12.6 million hit next season, although LA would only pay around $8.4 million and change in a trade.

Then again, if Los Angeles is truly looking to max out on their playoff window before their entire core dissipates, 2022 might be their best opportunity to win another ring.

The Chiefs wouldn’t stand to gain too much from this type of deal, but they could potentially receive some sort of late-round conditional pick in exchange.

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Secondary Option Still Exists

If Veach is unable to find a trade partner that will take on Hitchens for the final year of the long-term contract he signed in 2018, they could always release the veteran outright.

As Ballentine noted, Bolton and Gay have turned into reliable pieces at linebacker and Hitchens will be 30 in June. In a recent article from FanSided, Russell S. Baxter even listed him as a “surprise” Chiefs cut this offseason.

“He was the 53rd-ranked linebacker in 2021 according to Pro Football Focus,” Baxter began. “Including playoffs, Kansas City’s Anthony Hitchens played and started in a total of 18 games this past season. … During the regular season, he finished second on the team with 80 tackles (41 solo, 39 assists), to go along with one interception and two passes defended. He totaled 17 stops (8 solo) and knocked down one pass in three postseason affairs.”

The writer concluded: “There was a lot that went wrong for the Chiefs’ defense in 2021. And Hitchens could wind up on the outs if there’s a big-time overhaul.”

Kansas City’s may not have been as bad as Baxter makes it seem, but Hitchens has definitely become a spare part that’s no longer necessary — especially at $12 million-plus.

If Veach were to release Hitchens, the Chiefs would save the same amount of cap as if they traded him ($8.4 million). For this contract, it doesn’t matter if they do the deed before or after June 1 (same relief number), so expect this to happen sooner rather than later if it does occur.


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