The Kansas City Chiefs are set to enter training camp with the league maximum of 90 players on the offseason roster, which breaks down as 44 on offense, 43 on defense and three specialists.
Four players return from spending the 2015 season on injured reserve: Running back Jamaal Charles (knee), cornerback Phillip Gaines (knee), tight end James O’Shaughnessy (foot) and inside linebacker Justin March (knee).
Of the quartet, Charles did not participate in organized team activities (OTAs) and was limited during mandatory minicamp. Gaines, March and O’Shaughnessy, all of whom participated in the offseason workouts, should be fine for the start of training camp.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee), outside linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) and punter Dustin Colquitt (knee) underwent offseason procedures. Colquitt participated in OTAs and minicamp, while Hali and Houston did not. Barring any setback, Hali is expected to be ready for camp, but it remains unclear how long Houston will be out.
Here is how the Chiefs roster shapes out (rookie are italicized) for training camp, which officially begins with a full practice on July 30:
|Quarterback (4)||Alex Smith, Tyler Bray, Aaron Murray, Kevin Hogan|
With Smith, who turned 32 in May, as the clear starter, the spotlight falls at the No. 2 spot, where Bray, Murray and Hogan will battle to be Smith’s primary backup.
Bray took a majority of the snaps with the second-team unit in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, but the competition likely won’t be settled until well into preseason action. The Chiefs need to see Bray, Murray and Hogan in live action.
|Running back (5)||Jamaal Charles, Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware, Knile Davis, Darrin Reaves|
It wouldn’t surprise if the Chiefs took it easy on Charles in training camp given the presence of West and Ware, both of whom signed two-year contract extensions during the offseason.
Davis, who enters the final year of his contract, provides depth, but he’ll fight for a roster spot throughout training camp.
|Fullback (2)||Anthony Sherman, Trey Millard|
The Chiefs are set at the fullback position with Sherman entrenched as the starter.
|Wide receiver (13)||Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, Rod Streater, De’Anthony Thomas, Frankie Hammond Jr., Da’Ron Brown, Kashif Moore, Mike Williams, Seantavius Jones, Demarcus Robinson, Tyreek Hill, Mitch Matthews|
Maclin is the clear No. 1, and then there is a battle royale set to occur for the spots behind him.
The Chiefs opened the 2015 regular season with six wide receivers and the current roster offers plenty of options — mostly between Wilson, Conley, Thomas, Streater, Hammond, Robinson and Hill — should the team go the same route in 2016.
Wilson and Hammond enter the final year of their contracts, while Streater is signed to a one-year deal.
How Hill, who turned heads during the offseason workouts, performs in camp could impact at least two positions. The rookie can also contribute on special teams as a returner, signaling he will push Thomas and running back Knile Davis for a roster spot.
|Tight end (5)||Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, James O’Shaughnessy, Brian Parker, Ross Travis|
Kelce and Harris are locked in with contract extensions, while O’Shaughnessy returns healthy after spending part of the 2015 season on injured reserve with a foot injury.
The Chiefs entered the 2015 season with four tight ends, and Travis could push Parker with a strong training camp.
|Offensive Tackle (6)||Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz, Jah Reid, Reid Fragel, Curtis Feigt, Zach Sterup|
The Chiefs enter training camp with no questions at the starting bookend positions for the first time since Andy Reid arrived in 2013. Fisher is the clear starter at left tackle, while Schwartz, who signed a five-year deal during free agency, arrive to offer needed stability on the right side.
The Chiefs, however, should identify a swing tackle. Jah Reid provides versatility to play tackle or guard.
|Guard (6)||Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Zach Fulton, Jarrod Pughsley, Jordan Devey, Parker Ehinger, Garrick Mayweather|
Duvernay-Tardif returns as last year’s starter. Ehinger spent 10 offseason practices working at left guard with the first-team unit and enters training camp with an opportunity to seize the job, provided he performs when the pads come on.
Should Ehinger falter, he’ll face stiff competition from Fulton, Pughsley, Mayweather or Jah Reid.
Fulton, in particular, is arguably the most versatile of the group. He started all 16 games at right guard during his rookie season in 2014, and then started three games at right guard and two games at left guard in 2015. Fulton also started two games at center in the postseason.
|Center (3)||Mitch Morse, Daniel Munyer, Drew Nowak|
Morse, who enters his second season, is the clear starter in this group and the Chiefs have adequate depth behind him.
|Defensive end (7)||Allen Bailey, Jaye Howard, Nick Williams, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jimmy Staten, Nico Davis, David King|
With Bailey and Howard, the Chiefs possess one of the NFL’s most underrated pair of starting defensive ends and have solid depth behind them.
Williams or Nunez-Roches could see a larger role on a rotational basis in training camp or preseason action as the Chiefs seek to find a replacement for Mike DeVito, who retired during the offseason.
|Nose tackle (3)||Dontari Poe, Alameda Ta’amu, Chris Jones|
Poe, the clear starter, is set to play the season in a fifth-year option. The Chiefs can choose to rotate Jaye Howard inside if Jones, who was selected in the second round of this year’s draft, isn’t ready.
|Outside linebacker (8)||Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Frank Zombo, Dezman Moses, Jonathan Massaquoi, Andy Mulumba, Dadi Nicolas|
Hali returns and the Chiefs have veterans Zombo and Moses to provide depth. But Ford is the key when considering Houston, who continues to recover from an offseason ALC procedure, is the biggest question mark entering training camp and into the regular season.
How Ford performs in Houston’s absence will go a long way in determining the stability and success of the outside linebacker position.
Massaquoi and Mulumba, both of whom signed as free agents during the offseason, provide NFL experience. The Chiefs used a sixth-round pick on Nicolas, but he’ll need to learn how to play outside linebacker while transitioning from playing defensive end in college, which is a similar situation to Ford’s transition in 2014.
|Inside linebacker (7)||Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga, Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Justin March, Tyrell Adams, Terrance Smith|
Johnson, who turns 34 in November, returns as the clear leader of the group, and Mauga returns as last year’s starter.
Still, Mauga’s hold on a starting job in 2016 will face stiff competition throughout training camp and preseason action from a trio of promising youngsters in Wilson, Alexander and March.
|Cornerback (12)||Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines, Steven Nelson, Marcus Cooper, Deveron Carr, KeiVarae Russell, Eric Murray, D.J. White, Vernon Harris, Tre Jones, Shannon Edwards, Shak Randolph|
The top three cornerbacks project as Peters, Gaines and Nelson entering training camp. Peters is a lock at left cornerback and a battle will ensue throughout the preseason at the right cornerback and nickel cornerback positions.
The Chiefs certainly bolstered the competition by using the draft to select Russell, Murray and White. Cooper, who is in the final year of his contract, offers starting experience and versatility to play safety.
|Safety (6)||Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Stevie Brown, Jamell Fleming, Daniel Sorensen, Akeem Davis|
Berry, who hasn’t signed his one-year franchise tender, is no lock to report to training camp on time. When he eventually shows, Berry will pair with Parker as mainstays at the safety positions.
Meanwhile, Brown, Fleming, Sorensen and Davis have an opportunity to receive plenty of repetitions in the event of a Berry holdout.
|Punter (1)||Dustin Colquitt|
Colquitt remains one of the NFL’s most underrated punters. He has two more years remaining on his contract.
|Kicker (1)||Cairo Santos|
Santos provides a steady presence, but he enters the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $600,000.
|Long snapper (1)||James Winchester|
Winchester enters the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $525,000.