KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs finalized their 54-man roster Saturday afternoon and, barring any last minute waiver claims or trades, have fielded the squad that opens the season next Sunday against the Chargers.
The team has a roster exemption for safety Eric Berry until next Saturday, which means one more roster move is required before next Sunday
Here’s a breakdown of the current 54-man roster.
QUARTERBACKS (3): Alex Smith, Nick Foles and Tyler Bray
The quarterback lineup is not how it was drawn up in July at the start of camp, but the Chiefs are certainly strengthened with the addition of Foles. Aaron Murray struggled in the preseason, with Bray clearly emerging as the third quarterback.
Now the Chiefs wait to see if rookie draft pick Kevin Hogan slips through waivers. He’s a project and not quite ready to play in the NFL, so it’s reasonable they can add him to the practice squad.
RUNNING BACKS (5): Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Knile Davis and Anthony Sherman
Among the biggest roster debates was whether the team would keep five running backs — and if they did, would it be Davis or Darrin Reaves? Both backs played to a seeming draw in the preseason, and if special teams was the determining factor, Davis is the right choice. His value as a protector on punt coverage and as a kick returner give him the edge. The Chiefs likely need a fifth running back if Charles remains limited early in the season while he returns from knee surgery.
TIGHT ENDS (4): Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, Ross Travis and James O’Shaughnessy
Another tough roster decision was whether the team would go with four tight ends, and then whether it would O’Shaughnessy or Brian Parker. Parker seemed to have more flexibility, filling in as a backup fullback when Trey Millard when down wit ha season-ending injury.
O’Shaughnessy looked sharp as a rookie before a foot injury ended his season. A fourth tight end is a necessity for a team such as the Chiefs who utilize multiple tight-end looks more than perhaps any other team in the league.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, Tyreek Hill, De’Anthony Thomas and Demarcus Robinson
Six wide receivers seemed like the right move all along with the decision eventually likely coming down to Thomas or free agent Rod Streater. Special teams may again have played a critical factor in the decision, as Thomas is a weapon at punt returner. The Chiefs dealt Streater to San Francisco to clear the logjam.
Hill emerged quickly as a likely roster candidate, but the presence of Thomas and Davis means the rookie won’t bear the full load for kick return duties. Robinson shined in the preseason on special teams as a gunner, making Frankie Hammond expendable. But Robinson is still learning the offense and not much should be expected from him as a receiver in his rookie season. He can also contribute as a backup returner.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Eric Fisher, Parker Ehinger, Mitch Morse, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz, Zach Fulton, Jah Reid and Jordan Devey
The first seven offensive linemen have been clear all training camp, but the eighth remained a question mark. Devey seems to have won the job with a late push, demonstrating an ability to play multiple positions.
It looked like Jarrod Pughsley had the early lead, but Devey began to take on more responsibilities, including as the sixth linemen in short yardage situations. That doesn’t mean the Chiefs may not scour the waiver wire for other possibilities.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Allen Bailey, Jaye Howard, Dontari Poe, Chris Jones, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Nick Williams
The Chiefs may play a 3-4 defense, but they clearly have four starters along the defensive line with the addition of Chris Jones. The rookie from Mississippi State slid to the Chiefs amid perceptions he lacked a consistent motor, but Jones has defied that reputation all training camp.
Jones allows the Chiefs to utilize a four-man rotation that should keep the front line fresher and healthier. Williams has a reputation as a run stopper, but proved against Green Bay his pass rushing continues improving.
LINEBACKERS (9): Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Justin March, Frank Zombo, Dee Ford, Ramik Wilson, Dadi Nicolas, D.J. Alexander and Dezman Moses
PUP List: Justin Houston
Nine linebackers is probably one more than the team prefers to keep, but a fifth outside linebacker may be needed to help spell Hali and provide insurance against injury with Moses just returning from a glute injury and Houston out for at least the first six games of the season.
Coach Andy Reid said Friday Nicolas may not be ready for a full-time role but hopes he can play into a situational backer. The Chiefs may also review the waiver wire for an edge pass rusher. Inside linebacker looks much more set, with March emerging as the starter alongside Johnson and Wilson as an able backup. March and Wilson can also play together giving Johnson the occasional respite.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10): Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Phillip Gaines, Marcus Peters, Daniel Sorensen, Eric Murray, Kenneth Acker, Steven Nelson, D.J. White and KeiVarae Russell
Normally the Chiefs would favor more safeties over corners, but this position group has a lot of flexibility. The starting lineup looks set with Berry, Parker, Peters and Gaines with Nelson as a nickle back.
Sorensen and Murray provide depth at safety. White showed plenty of potential throughout camp but had some struggles early in the preseason. Acker is still learning the defense and may be more of a special teams contributor early
SPECIALISTS (3): Dustin Colquitt (P), Cairo Santos (K), James Winchester (LS)
The specialists roles were never in doubt, none of whom had any competition in training camp. Chiefs are comfortable with all three. Colquitt remains among the best in the league, Santos appears to have improved strength this year and Winchester remains reliable.