Just a week removed from its AFC Championship win over the Buffalo Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs are being linked to a key starter for the AFC’s No. 2 seed.
With one all-important game left to play this season, the Chiefs’ ravaged offensive line has come under the microscope in the days leading up to its final task: neutralizing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ powerful pass rush. Center Austin Reiter is the only a Week 1 starter left standing, putting Patrick Mahomes‘ frontline into question in both the short and long-term.
One potential solution to consider this offseason?
Old friend Mitch Morse.
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Bills Could Move on From Morse 2 Years Early
Morse is a well-known commodity in Chiefs Kingdom, where the 28-year-old spent the first four years of his NFL career after the defending Super Bowl champions drafted him in the second round (No. 49 overall) in 2015. The 6-foot-6, 305-pounder has started all 79 games over six seasons, including his first 49 in Kansas City.
This week, Arrowhead Addict’s Matt Connor connected the dots on a potential return to Kansas City for the Missouri product, suggesting that Morse could be a cap casualty for Buffalo in the coming weeks.
Heading into next season, Morse has the fourth-highest cap hit for the Bills, which would be fine, but the rest of the line is also getting expensive. Guard/center Jon Feliciano is going to be a free agent, as is Darryl Williams, and it makes sense for the Bills to explore bringing both back.
In addition, there are health concerns around Morse given that he suffered his fifth documented concussion earlier this year. He returned after missing a couple games in the season’s mid-section to start every game from Week 12 on, but the team can’t pretend it’s not a concern going forward.
Beyond that, the Bills also had an odd episode in mid-November to reflect back on when Morse was a healthy scratch for the team. He was active and practicing, having just returned from the concussion protocol, yet he didn’t play against the Arizona Cardinals in a Week 10 loss.
While Reiter has done an admirable job taking over under center since Morse’s departure two seasons ago, the 29-year-old former seventh-rounder is set to hit the open market this offseason. According to an early evaluation from Spotrac, Reiter’s market value could reach $11.4 million annually, or the equivalent of a three-year, $34.2 million contract. Already $18.7 million over a projected $175 million 2021 cap number, the Chiefs would be unlikely to match a contract of that significance.
In addition to the interior line, the guard and tackle positions will need attention from general manager Brett Veach and staff. Veterans Kelechi Osemele, Mike Remmers, Daniel Kilgore and Andrew Wylie (restricted) are also impending free agents, while starting bookends Mitchell Schwartz (back) and Eric Fisher (torn Achilles) are major question marks to open next season.
Morse’s Contract Named Bills’ Worst Deal
Last November, Bleacher Report pegged the worst contract for every NFL team in 2020 based on money owed, performance relative to cost and player mobility.
Fresh off the second season of a four-year, $44.5 million free agent deal with $26.1 million guaranteed, Morse was the choice for Buffalo.
This is a testament to how wise general manager Brandon Beane has been in his spending. Morse’s contract isn’t awful. If his play were bad enough, the Buffalo Bills could move on from the 28-year-old next season and only incur $5.5 million in dead cap.
This deal makes the list because Morse isn’t playing up to the money he’s earning. He has the second-highest cap hit at his position this season and is scheduled to be sixth next year.
Yet his PFF grade is just 65.6, and he’s the second-most penalized center in the league this year. Again, his contract isn’t a team-killer, but Morse is one of the few players on the Bills making big money right now.
The Bills have a relatively easy out of the contract in the weeks and months to follow. Should the team cut Morse prior to June 1, they would absorb a $5.5 million dead cap hit next season with a cap savings of $4.84 million. After June 1, the dead cap money would be spread over the following two seasons while the savings would rise to $7.59 million in 2021.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!