The hits keep on coming for the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.
On March 15 — the same day that defensive tackle Khalen Saunders and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster both left on the open market — NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero reported that safety Juan Thornhill is signing with the Cleveland Browns.
“Two-time Super Bowl winner Juan Thornhill agreed to terms with the Browns on a three-year, $21 million contract with $14 million fully guaranteed at signing over the first two years, per sources,” Pelissero informed. “Thornhill started 52 games for the Chiefs. A big addition for Cleveland.”
Ex-Chiefs S Juan Thornhill Tweets at Browns Fans After Hinting at Signing
Just before Pelissero shared the news, Thornhill dropped a hint that he was joining the Browns on Twitter, using emojis.
“🟠👀” he tweeted, as former KC teammate Justin Reid commented: “Go crazy over there gang.”
About 30 minutes or so later, Thornhill addressed his new fanbase, voicing: “#DawgPound what up baby !!!!! Let’s Gooooo.”
The former second-round pick has yet to write out a statement for Chiefs Kingdom, although the night is still young.
Chiefs Are Prepared for Juan Thornhill Departure
Fortunately, Kansas City did prep for this departure more than others. Thornhill was expected to walk once his rookie contract expired and after the Chiefs drafted Bryan Cook in 2022, general manager Brett Veach was ready for it too.
“Bryan Cook will be playing Thornhill’s spot next season,” USA Today’s Charles Goldman noted after the move to Cleveland was announced. “K.C. also likes to use three safeties and typically carries 4 on the roster. Chiefs only have [Justin] Reid & Cook now.”
He added later: “[In my opinion], come away [with] one of the Illinois safeties in the draft and re-sign Deon Bush and you’re set [at the position].”
As you can see, the situation is far from dire at safety, and Thornhill was always going to be paid too much by someone else on the open market. In the end, that theory came to fruition.
Juan Thornhill Cashes In on Successful Tenure With Chiefs
It’s rare that you play for an organization for four years, and all four of those seasons you make it to your conference’s championship game. That’s what Thornhill was able to accomplish, however — as a part of this budding dynasty in KC.
Technically, the safety won a Super Bowl as a rookie, although he never played in the postseason that playoff run due to an ACL tear. For what it’s worth, Thornhill had been having a tremendous rookie campaign up to that point with three interceptions and a touchdown, as well as five passes defended and 58 total tackles.
He was unable to replicate those numbers in 2020, starting eight out of 16 games with 41 total tackles and three passes defended. Thornhill did have one interception, sticking to his career theme of registering at least one INT in every season with the Chiefs.
After having a mildly better campaign in 2021, the Virginia product knew he had to step it up entering his contract season with Tyrann Mathieu leaving in free agency last offseason. Thornhill referred to it as his “treasure year” on social media, and he didn’t disappoint after claiming he was finally healthy for the first time since the torn ACL.
All told, the safety posted career-high numbers in tackles (71), TFLs (four), QB hits (two), passes defended (nine), interceptions (tied career-high of three), and he was credited with his first ever sack. Starting throughout a playoff run and winning another Super Bowl — on the field this time — was just the icing on the cake.
Who knows, perhaps it was the Chiefs drafting Cook that inspired him, or stepping into a leadership role after Mathieu’s departure. Maybe it was just the fact that he was playing for his first contract, or it’s possible Thornhill was actually healthy again as he alluded.
Whatever the reason, Thornhill showed out in 2022 and he earned every cent of that $14 million guarantee. Now the Chiefs will turn to Cook to take his place in the starting lineup.