With the NFL season concluding last Sunday with Super Bowl LVI, it’s time to start turning our attention towards free agency and 2022.
One apparent weakness for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021 was the lack of a legitimate third weapon for Mahomes behind Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. We witnessed a severe drop-off in production after the Chiefs’ top two receiving leaders, with the likes of Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle attempting to fill the void throughout the season. In this year’s loaded free agency class, Kansas City would undoubtedly benefit from adding a real number two wide receiver, further opening up the passing game in 2022.
Here are five practical wide receivers the Chiefs should target this free agency:
Five: Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals (25 Years Old)
(Projected market value: $11.9M annually, per Spotrac)
Since being drafted by the Cardinals in 2018, Christian Kirk has been somewhat underachieving for Arizona. In his four years in the NFL, Kirk has totaled 2,902 yards and 17 touchdowns, failing to eclipse the 1,000-yard benchmark in any of his first four seasons. However, in 2021 we saw a glimpse of Kirk’s potential to be a legitimate weapon for an offense. In just 11 games started this season, Kirk tallied 982 receiving yards with five touchdowns; he took advantage of the missed time from Arizona’s primary weapon, DeAndre Hopkins.
Kirk fits the mold Kansas City seems to covet at the receiver position, being on the short and more athletic side, standing at 5’11”. Kirk, only 25 years old, is just entering his prime and could prove a smart signing as he has yet to reach his full potential in Arizona. One question for the Chiefs here, however, is if Kirk is a sizable enough upgrade over Mecole Hardman to justify paying him his projected nearly $12 million salary per year.
Four: Odell Beckham Jr., Los Angeles Rams (29 Years Old)
(Projected market value: $13.1M annually, per Spotrac)
Beckham certainly would have been higher on this list had it not been for the tearing of his ACL just a few days ago in the Super Bowl, ultimately putting his availability for the 2022 season in doubt.
Since entering the league eight years ago, Odell Beckham has been a lightning rod in both the good and bad sense of the word. OBJ was the face of the NFL while playing with the Giants before being shipped off to Cleveland and being largely unproductive for the better part of over two years. This year Beckham (with help from his father) forced his way out of Cleveland and signed a one-year deal with the Rams to finish the remainder of his 2021 season in Los Angeles. We saw a resurgence in the wide receiver once acclimated in L.A. In just 12 games with the Rams (including postseason), Beckham hauled in 48 receptions for 607 yards and seven touchdowns.
Odell might be the most talented receiver on this list, but turning 30 next season and coming off a major injury, could result in Beckham coming at a discounted price on a one-year prove-it deal in 2022. Should Beckham choose to test the free-agent waters next month, Kansas City would be wise to at least check in on the three-time Pro Bowler. An offense containing a healthy OBJ, Hill, and Kelce would surely give opposing defensive coordinators headaches trying to figure out how to slow down the Chiefs.
Note: The Chiefs were interested in acquiring Beckham’s talents back in November when the wide receiver became available after being waived by the Browns.
Three: Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys (25 Years Old)
(Projected market value: $11.8M annually, per Spotrac)
Michael Gallup has proved to be a capable number two wide receiver and proved to be productive as the third option in an offense. In Gallup’s second year in the league, he tallied 1,107 yards and hauled in six touchdowns as the Cowboy’s number two receiver behind Amari Cooper, and in 2020 racked up 873 yards and five touchdowns while playing third fiddle to Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Gallup has been one of the NFL’s most under-appreciated wide receivers over the last several years, being underutilized in his time with Dallas.
Gallup would immediately come in and contribute significantly to the Chiefs’ offense next season, likely overtaking Mecole Hardman as Kansas City’s number three option behind Kelce and Hill. At 6’1″, Gallup would give the Chiefs a bit more size at the receiver position and provide Mahomes a worthy red-zone target to go along with Travis Kelce.
Two: D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars (25 Years Old)
(Projected market value: $11.9M annually, per Spotrac)
Chark likely has the highest ceiling of any receiver on this list. The four-year pro has spent the beginning of his young career trying to establish himself down in Jacksonville, having been forced to play with several quarterbacks from Mike Glennon to Trevor Lawerence. In 2019 D.J. Chark made the Pro Bowl, going for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games. Chark managed to play only four games in 2021, fracturing his ankle in Week four against the Cincinnati Bengals. In the four games the wide receiver played this year, Chark went for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
D.J. Chark would provide the Chiefs something they’ve been desperately missing since the departure of Dwayne Bowe; a tall receiver that can go up and high point the ball. Chark is an incredible athlete, standing at 6’4″ and running a 4.34 forty time. After missing nearly all of the 2021 season, Kansas City could potentially land Chark at a bargain of the price for what the wide receiver would’ve commanded had he been healthy.
One: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (25 Years Old)
(Projected market value: Undetermined, per Spotrac)
At number one, we have wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Other than Odell Beckham Jr., JuJu is the most established and decorated receiver on this list. Through his first five years as a professional football player, Schuster has racked up 3,855 yards and 26 touchdowns, playing with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for most of those games. Unfortunately for JuJu, he missed most of the 2021 season after injuring his shoulder, playing only five games in the regular season.
JuJu made the improbable return to the football field this postseason as the Steelers got their wide receiver back for the Chiefs-Steelers Wild Card game. Schuster is likely the best fit ability-wise for the Chiefs over any other receiver on this list and would without a doubt come into Kansas City and become wide receiver two behind Tyreek Hill. Schuster will likely come in on the cheaper side, around $8M to $11M annually per season, and would be the Chiefs’ best bet at getting the consistent productivity they’ve been searching for in a third weapon behind Hill and Kelce.
Note: The Chiefs offered JuJu Smith-Schuster a one-year, $8 million contract last free agency; Schuster instead opted to return to Pittsburgh.
Which wide receivers do you think the Chiefs will target in free agency? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion!
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