KANSAS CITY, Mo. – From Husain Abdullah, Kurt Coleman, Tyvon Branch to Quintin Demps, the Chiefs struck gold the past three seasons in finding veteran free-agent safeties on initial one-year deals.
At the end of their respective original deals, Abdullah then signed a two-year contract to stay in Kansas City before recently retiring, Coleman left and became a key contributor for the Carolina Panthers, while Branch signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Chiefs’ proven track record of helping defensive backs re-launch their careers hasn’t gone unnoticed to safeties Stevie Brown and Jimmy Wilson, both of whom recently signed one-year contracts.
“They signed guys to one-year deals who have gone and jump started their career back,” Wilson said Wednesday in a conference call with Chiefs beat writers. “And I think it’s a culture there that they develop and all the guys compete.”
Brown, whose deal pays a base salary of $760,000 in 2016, echoed Wilson in an earlier conference call.
“Whenever you have a good defense and multiple people are playing in the defense, it seems like everybody is doing well,” said Brown, who entered the league in 2010 as a seventh-round pick of the Oakland Raiders. “That’s the type of system that it has, that’s the type of coaches that it has and that’s the type of players that it brings in. It brings in guys that are hungry that want to play.”
The Chiefs are likely hoping the 6-0, 213-pound Brown and the 5-11, 205-pound Wilson continue the trend of having productive seasons after signing a one-year contract.
While their exact roles are still to be determined, each player offers a diverse skillset to the back end of coverage.
“In the past I’ve been more so a roamer, doing all the things that (Seattle Seahawks safety) Earl (Thomas) does,” said Brown, who notched a career-high eight interceptions in 2012. “But every now and then I do come into the box.
“If I need to run through gaps, fit in the running game, I know how to do all that as well. It’s just probably a little bit of versatility is what you’ll see out of me, between breaking off the quarterback’s eyes or coming down into the box and filling gaps as need be.”
Wilson, who will also earn a base salary of $760,000 in 2016, pointed out his versatility from playing cornerback, nickel cornerback and safety since entering the league in 2011 as a seventh-round pick of the Miami Dolphins.
The Chiefs are likely to rely on second-year pro Steven Nelson to play the nickel cornerback role.
But Wilson, who spent time with the San Diego Chargers in 2015, provides insurance at a position he knows well.
“My first four years I was primarily a nickel cornerback,” Wilson said. “I’m very comfortable with it, just getting some talk on the system, I feel comfortable with it, the base stuff that they’re putting in here. Maybe in sub-down coverages, if that’s how everything shakes out, I’ll be able to get down there and cover the slot.”
The Chiefs are set to enter the offseason workout program with Brown, Wilson, Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Daniel Sorensen, Jordan Kovacs and Jamell Fleming, who transitions from cornerback, at the safety position.
The Chiefs have plenty of depth even without the NFL Draft, which occurs April 28-30, and competition will be heavy leading to the regular season.
Regardless how the playing time shakes out, Wilson and Brown look forward to doing whatever is asked of them.
“Nowadays in the NFL, you’ve got to use quite a few DBs to get all the packages and stuff,” Wilson said. “Honestly, I just think the way I’ve been brought up and my career has gone, I’m willing to help the team any way I can, no matter where they want to put me or use me. I’m here to help. I appreciate being on the Kansas City Chiefs.”
Brown, who sat out of football in 2015, agreed.
“I’m going to come in and just learn what I need to learn,” he said, “do what I’m asked to do, and just try to drive because it’s a defense that’s surrounded with great players.”