Early offseason look at Chiefs’ current roster

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Dec. 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO; General view of the Chiefs offensive line in the game against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Dec. 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO; General view of the Chiefs offensive line in the game against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

The best approach when viewing a roster before the start of free agency and the NFL Draft is like Gumby – be flexible when considering additions and subtractions will occur.

Teams are allowed a maximum of 90 players on an offseason roster and the Kansas City Chiefs currently have 78 players, including 17 signed to reserve/future contracts.

Six players return from injured reserve, specifically running back Jamaal Charles (knee), guard Ben Grubbs (neck), cornerback Phillip Gaines (knee), linebacker Justin March (knee), tight end James O’Shaughnessy (foot) and guard Paul Fanaika (back).

Quarterback Tyler Bray returns from the non-football injury list and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas returns from the non-football illness list.

The Chiefs will have an estimated $32 million in cap space when the league’s new calendar year begins on March 9, which signals the start of free agency.

Of the current roster, 14 players are scheduled to become unrestricted agents (annotated below in bold italics and an asterisk) and four will be exclusive rights free agents (annotated below in double asterisks).

Here is how the Chiefs’ roster stands as of this publishing:

OFFENSE (39) 

Quarterback (4) Alex Smith, Chase Daniel*, Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray

Smith, Murray and Bray form the nucleus in the event Daniel leaves via free agency.

Running back (5) Jamaal Charles, Charcandrick West**, Spencer Ware, Knile Davis, Darrin Reaves

Charles returns from a torn ACL and is believed to be ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation.

West, an exclusive right free agent, proved his worth by leading the Chiefs in rushing the past season (634 yards). Ware offered power and led the team with six rushing touchdowns and provides the size and versatility to play fullback.

Davis enters the final year of his rookie contract, which pays a base salary of $675,000.

Reaves signed a reserve/future deal in January after spending time on the practice squad.

Fullback (2)  Anthony Sherman, Trey Millard

Sherman is the clear No. 1 at this position. Millard signed a reserve/future deal in January.

Wide receiver (9) Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant*, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, De’Anthony Thomas, Frankie Hammond Jr., Fred Williams, Da’Ron Brown, Kenny Cook

Maclin, Wilson and Conley form the nucleus at this position, and the Chiefs will expect more from Wilson, who enters his third season, and Conley, who enters his second. The expectation of both young receivers is reasonable when it is well-documented that wide receivers typically take two years to firmly grasp the intricacies of coach Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense.

The Chiefs are likely to add competition before training camp since it is unclear if Avant, who turns 33 in April, returns.

Meanwhile, mystery continues to surround Thomas, who recently tweeted he is still recovering from a concussion suffered in Week 12. The Chiefs, however, say Thomas cleared the concussion protocol.

Hammond is in the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $600,000 in 2016.

Williams, Brown and Cook signed reserve/future contracts in January. All three spent time on the Chiefs practice squad the past season.

Tight end (5) Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, James O’Shaughnessy, Brian Parker, Ross Travis

The Chiefs took care of Kelce and Harris with contract extensions in the past month and the two form the foundation with O’Shaughnessy.

Parker, who appeared in nine games the past season and had one catch for 6 yards on two targets, is more of a blocker.

Travis signed a reserve/future contract in January after spending time on the practice squad the past season.

Offensive Tackle (5) Eric Fisher, Jah Reid, Donald Stephenson*, Laurence Gibson, Reid Fragel

Fisher enters the final year of his rookie contract, but the Chiefs have until May 3 to decide to exercise a fifth-year option on the former No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Reid signed a three-year extension in December, while Gibson and Fragel signed reserve/future contracts in January after spending time on the practice squad.

It remains to be seen if the Chiefs bring back Stephenson.

Guard (6) Jeff Allen*, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Ben Grubbs, Paul Fanaika, Jarrod Pughsley, Michael Liedtke

Re-signing Allen makes sense, but the Chiefs have shown willingness the past three years to let free-agent offensive linemen leave. Geoff Schwartz, Jon Asomoah and Branden Albert in 2014, and then Rodney Hudson in 2015 are examples of that approach.

With Grubbs (neck) and Fanaika (back) returning from injured reserve to provide depth, Pughsley has versatility to play guard and tackle.

Liedtke signed a reserve/future contract in January after spending time on the practice squad.

Center (3) Mitch Morse, Zach Fulton, Daniel Munyer

The Chiefs appear set at the center position. Fulton and Munyer offer versatility to play guard. 

DEFENSE (36)

Defensive end (5) Allen Bailey, Mike DeVito*, Nick Williams**, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Dominique Davis

The Chiefs could choose to bring back DeVito, who would provide a veteran presence as Nunez-Roches develops.

Williams, who can also play defensive tackle, is an exclusive rights free agent, while Davis signed a reserve/future contract deal in January.

Nose tackle (5) Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard*, David King**, Jimmy Staten, Alameda Ta’amu

The Chiefs exercised a fifth-year option on Poe in April 2015, meaning Poe will play the 2016 earning a base salary of $6.1 million. Barring a new contract, Poe is eligible for free agency in 2017.

Howard is set to be an unrestrictive free agent and he isn’t likely to come cheap.

“Ultimately and truthfully, I got to take care of my family at this point,” Howard said on Jan. 17. “I want to be paid like one of the top D-linemen in this league, and I felt like I deserve that. I played well enough to get that and hopefully we can get something done. I’d love to be back here.”

King is an exclusive rights free agent, while Staten signed a reserve/future agent in January after spending the past season on the practice squad. Ta’amu also signed a reserve/future deal.

Outside linebacker (6) Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Frank Zombo*, Dezman Moses*, Cameron Gordon

The Chiefs will need to address depth at the outside linebacker position when considering Hali’s contract can be voided after the Super Bowl, and Zombo and Moses are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

Gordon signed a reserve/future contract in January.

Inside linebacker (6) Derrick Johnson*, Josh Mauga, Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Justin March, Tyrell Adams

The Chiefs have depth with youth if Johnson isn’t re-signed. Wilson and Alexander were drafted last season and Mauga has two more years remaining on his contract.

March (knee) returns from injured reserve and showed promise during the 2015 training camp. Adams signed a reserve/future deal in January after spending time on the practice squad.

Cornerback (8) Sean Smith*, Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, Jamell Fleming*, Marcus Cooper, Keith Lewis, Deveron Carr

Smith is likely to command a hefty price tag entering free agency, so his return isn’t a given.

Should Smith and Fleming leave, the Chiefs are likely to build around Peters, Nelson and Gaines, who returns from a torn ACL.

Cooper in final year of contract, while Lewis and Carr signed reserve/future contracts in January.

Strong safety (3) Ron Parker, Tyvon Branch*, Jordan Kovacs

Parker offers the versatility to play both safety positions and cornerback.

Branch, who signed a one-year deal last year, proved a steady contributor in 2015 and could be brought back.

Kovacs signed a reserve/future deal in January.

Free safety (3) Eric Berry*, Husain Abdullah*, Daniel Sorensen**

The Chiefs have a major decision to make at this position with Berry and Abdullah scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

Sorensen is an exclusive rights free agent.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Punter (1) Dustin Colquitt

Colquitt has two more years remaining on his contract.

Kicker (1) Cairo Santos

Santos enters the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $600,000 in 2016.

Long snapper (1) James Winchester

Winchester enters the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $525,000 in 2016.

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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