We know how much Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach likes to bet on talent in free agency — especially when the cost is low — and a recent veteran connection fits that mold.
In an ESPN article “predicting 10 remaining NFL free-agent signings” of significance, senior writer Bill Barnwell linked KC to a former No. 11 overall pick at cornerback. That player was Trae Waynes, who just completed two lost seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals after five up-and-down campaigns with the Minnesota Vikings.
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Waynes Signing Adds CB Competition & Depth
For once, Kansas City was not pegged as the landing spot for James Bradberry in this piece. Instead, Barnwell sent the recent New York Giants starter to the Arizona Cardinals with Waynes ending up on the Chiefs. The long-time analyst reasoned:
Veach has typically preferred to go bargain shopping at cornerback while spending money just about everywhere else on defense. The Chiefs did use a first-round pick on Washington corner Trent McDuffie, but they lost Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes in free agency. Lonnie Johnson Jr. was acquired from the Texans, but I’d expect the Chiefs to make a dart throw or two at veterans to compete with McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed.
As a former first-round pick with the Vikings, Waynes wasn’t always a consistent player, but the player out of Michigan State did enough to convince the Bengals to extend a three-year, $42 million deal during free agency in 2020. Cincinnati got a lot of moves right in rebuilding its defense, but the Waynes contract was a disaster, as the 29-year-old missed all of 2020 with a torn pectoral muscle and played just 243 snaps in 2021. Waynes was healthy during Cincinnati’s postseason run but didn’t play a single defensive snap, which was remarkable for a player who had the largest cap hit of any Bengals player.
There are some major uncertainties here. For starters, is Veach in the market for another cornerback? The unit was decimated early in free agency but McDuffie and Johnson make a solid four with Sneed and nickelback Rashad Fenton.
KC also has another former first-round talent on the roster in DeAndre Baker and two more 2022 draft selections in Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams. When healthy, Waynes is definitely an upgrade on Baker, but that brings the second uncertainty into focus.
Can Waynes keep himself in football shape? He turns 30 years of age in July and Veach has mostly targeted youth at the position so far.
At the same time, perhaps a veteran could tie this group together. Waynes started 57 games in Minnesota and was involved in three postseason runs with the Vikings. Even if he’s beaten out by McDuffie and Sneed, Waynes could serve as a higher quality reserve with a wealth of experience.
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What Would Waynes Cost?
Barnwell didn’t suggest the signing without giving Chiefs fans a potential price tag.
“The Chiefs still need to get an Orlando Brown Jr. extension done, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to bring in Waynes on a one-year deal for about $2.5 million,” he wrote.
Concluding: “This could be an opportunity for the Chiefs to add a viable starting cornerback at the absolute nadir of his value.”
If you aren’t breaking the bank and you aren’t short on roster space — could easily cut Baker or a lower reserve in the secondary — is there a hang-up on signing Waynes? The main discussion would have to be vision and culture.
In other words, is Waynes comfortable joining an organization that could have their three starters already in place at cornerback and would his knowledge help the room, or could his first-round status potentially hurt it? Those would be the questions for Veach and this front office.
Outside of that, this landing spot from Barnwell does appeal as a low-risk bargain.