With NFL free agency officially slated to open on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, the Kansas City Chiefs have been busy addressing a number of their in-house free agents, including re-signing backup running back Darrel Williams and tendering guard Andrew Wylie to new one-year deals on Tuesday.
Like Wylie, wide receiver Byron Pringle is also among the team’s restricted free agents this offseason, and on Wednesday the 27-year-old pass-catcher was tendered with an original-round offer, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The original-round designation means Pringle is guaranteed a $2.1 million minimum salary for the 2021 season and gives the Chiefs the first right of refusal, meaning Kansas City can now match any offer to retain Pringle should another team make one. Considering the Chiefs could have let Pringle walk and tried to re-sign him to a cheaper contract, the organization giving the promising receiver a $1.5 million raise from his nearly $600K salary last year is at least somewhat telling.
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Chiefs GM: ‘We’re All Excited About’ Pringle
Pringle first joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State back in 2018. After sitting out the entire year on injured reserve, the 6-foot-1, 2013-pound wideout has made strides over the last two seasons. So much so that general manager Brett Veach singled him out during his pre-draft press conference earlier this month.
“I think we’re certainly blessed to have Tyreek Hill and expecting big things out of Mecole Hardman this year and I think we’re all excited about the development of Byron Pringle,” Veach told reporters on March 1. “So, we feel really good about those three players.”
Pringle again missed three games in 2020 after being placed on injured reserve with a midseason ankle injury, but he still tallied 13 receptions, 160 yards and his second-career touchdown while starting three of 13 games. Due to Sammy Watkins’ lingering injuries throughout the playoffs, Pringle also saw action in all three postseason games for the second consecutive year, only this time drawing starts in all three and hauling in six passes for 39 yards. The fourth-year wideout has also been a core special teams contributor for Dave Toub’s unit since 2019.
With Watkins and Demarcus Robinson both potential flight risks on the open market starting on Wednesday afternoon, Pringle is seen as a potential breakout candidate in 2021, provided Veach and company don’t splurge on another high-end weapon in free agency in the coming days and weeks.
Free Agent WR Market Is ‘Very Soft and Going Down’
With every day that passes, the possibility of the Chiefs going after a big-name free agent wideout on a one-year rental contract is becoming more realistic. During the same pre-draft presser, Veach was adamant that Kansas City would not be aggressively pursuing an upgrade at the position, however.
“I think in free agency we’ll be smart and if something makes sense for us, we’ll do what we do every year and listen,” Veach said. “I can’t see us running out of the gates the first week of free agency and sign a receiver. I don’t think that’s where we’re at. But if the market falls and things make sense for us, I think we’ll be smart and selective. Then if something doesn’t work out in free agency I think there’s depth in that position to address it potentially in the draft.”
What he may not have foreseen at the time (at least to its current extent) was just how slow the receiver market would be. After talking to an unnamed GM, ESPN’s Diana Russini tweeted on Wednesday that many remaining players are “asking for double digit money and it seems not a lot of teams are biting.”
Ben Standig of The Athletic also tweeted on Tuesday that a GM texted him, “WR market is very soft and going down.”
This development could push the needle on potential Watkins return ever so slightly back in the Chiefs’ favor, should they remain interested. It also keeps open the possibility of landing one of the once-longshot options such as Detroit’s Kenny Golladay, Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster or Carolina’s Curtis Samuel, all of whom have yet to sign.
Some notable names who have agreed to new deals — Corey Davis (three years, $37M), Nelson Agholor (two years, $22M) and Emmanuel Sanders (one year, $6M) — have not exactly broken the bank. It’s a situation worth monitoring.
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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!