After a successful tryout during the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp, the Kansas City Chiefs are officially signing wide receiver and return specialist Darrius Sheperd, according to The Athletic’s Nate Taylor on Thursday, June 17.
With the expanded 90-man offseason roster already at full capacity, the defending AFC champions were forced to make a corresponding move to clear a spot for the former Green Bay Packers weapon. As first reported by Chiefs Digest beat writer Matt Derrick, Kansas City has waived offensive lineman Martinas Rankin.
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Rankin’s Career Slowed by Major Knee Injury
The 26-year-old Rankin originally entered the league as a third-round draft pick (No. 80 overall) of the Houston Texans in 2018. After starting four of 16 games as a rookie, the 6-foot-5, 311-pounder was traded to the Chiefs prior to the start of the 2019 season in exchange for running back Carlos Hyde.
His time in Kansas City started off strong, cracking the starting lineup at left guard in five of the team’s first six games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in November 2019. Rankin worked his way back into the fold last year after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list. His lone start in Week 17 was his last game action in a Chiefs uniform after Brett Veach and the Chiefs’ front office overhauled the offensive line room in recent months.
Even at his more natural guard position, Rankin faced an uphill battle to make the 2021 roster surrounded by new additions Joe Thuney, Kyle Long and rookie Trey Smith, as well as familiar faces such as Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Andrew Wylie, Nick Allegretti and Yasir Durant. Craig Stout of Kansas City Sports Network tweeted that Rankin “didn’t get much work in OTAs” in late May, suggesting the writing may have been on the wall heading into training camp in July anyways.
The fourth-year journeyman blocker took to Twitter with a simple message following the news: “Everyday I’m just trying to be better…”
Should he clear waivers by Friday, Rankin will be free to sign with any other club.
3 Ex-Chiefs Find New Homes in Free Agency
Three former Chiefs contributors landed with new clubs across the league on Thursday, including two with the division rival Las Vegas Raiders. According to the team’s official Twitter account, the Raiders have signed linebacker Darron Lee and cornerback De’Vante Bausby.
Lee, 26, is a former 2016 first-round draft pick (20th overall) of the New York Jets. After 36 starts across three seasons in the Big Apple, the Ohio State product landed in Kansas City in 2019, posting 31 total tackles in 16 games before departing to Buffalo last season.
Bausby, a 28-year-old Kansas City native, began his career with his hometown team, signing with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but didn’t make it to training camp. He had a second brief stint with the club during the 2017 offseason. In total, the seventh-year cover man has spent time with five teams in his career, combining for 60 tackles and eight pass deflections in 26 games (six starts).
Veteran nose tackle Mike Pennel, who most recently played in 14 games for Kansas City in 2020, was the third former Chiefs player to sign a new deal on Thursday. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound run-stuffing specialist inked a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears, per his agent Andy Simms.
Veach and company moved on from the 30-year-old Pennel after a two-year partnership, instead electing to make a bigger splash up the middle in the form of ex-Seattle Seahawks standout Jarran Reed.
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!