Here’s why a flawed Super Bowl contender stood pat at the trade deadline

Terez PaylorSenior NFL writer

Once the clock struck 3 p.m. Central time on Tuesday, marking the official end of the NFL’s trade deadline, the complaining and concern commenced in the city that’s home to the AFC’s best team.

And if you understand the history of the Kansas City Chiefs even a little bit, it’s easy to understand why. Chiefs fans are tortured, far more than you’d ever guess, and even in the midst of a red-hot (and unexpected) 7-1 start, many of them can’t help but worry about The Boogeyman.

And no, that’s not just a dated (but timely!) reference to the second-greatest horror movie of all time, “Halloween.” (The greatest horror flick of all time is “The Exorcist.” People were falling out in theaters, for goodness sake. I will not argue about this.) To Chiefs fans, the possibility of postseason heartbreak is every bit as scary as the 1978 classic, thanks to past teams that have gotten their hopes up in the regular season, only to rip their guts out in the postseason with inexplicable precision straight out of Michael Myers’ “How to Kill Someone 50 Times More Brutally Than Necessary” handbook.

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So yeah, let’s just say that when you see the Chiefs have the league’s 31st-ranked defense — whose rating on the “fun to watch” scale is as low as their star-studded offense’s rating is high — it’s not hard to figure out what’s probably going to come back to bite them in the postseason.

Yet, even knowing that, the Chiefs failed to make a move to boost a beleaguered secondary during the most active trade deadline in years. A bunch of players you’ve heard of were dealt, including receiver Golden Tate, receiver Demaryius Thomas, defensive end Dante Fowler and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, with the latter being someone many Chiefs fans hoped their team would key in on, along with cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Landon Collins of the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, none of whom were moved.

Pat Mahomes (15), Andy Reid and the Chiefs will go to battle in the second half of the season without having made a move for a defensive player at the trade deadline. (Getty)
Pat Mahomes (15), Andy Reid and the Chiefs will go to battle in the second half of the season without having made a move for a defensive player at the trade deadline. (Getty)

But the Chiefs held firm, and while it may still come back to bite them in a few months, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. The Chiefs expressed interest in Collins, but the Giants weren’t interested in trading him, Yahoo Sports has learned. Same goes for Peterson, who the Cardinals also weren’t open to trading. A source with knowledge of the club’s thinking also told Yahoo Sports that the Chiefs were not interested in Jenkins, an expensive, 30-year-old corner with uneven tape this season.

The club also monitored the availability of Clinton-Dix, a smooth 25-year-old safety who is set to be a free agent in May, but decided internally it wouldn’t surrender the third-round pick needed to secure his services from the Green Bay Packers. (Washington wound up trading a fourth for him). There were several reasons for that.

For one, Clinton-Dix would have been a tight fit under the cap this year, and the Chiefs — who will need to pay young building blocks like Tyreek Hill and Chris Jones in the near future — knew he’d be hard to re-sign. Especially considering the salary and equity they’ve already invested in the safety position, with Eric Berry and Daniel Sorensen combining to take up $18.3 million in cap space, and the fact they invested a 2018 fourth-rounder in Armani Watts and a 2020 seventh for Jordan Lucas.

Add all that together, and they couldn’t justify using a premium, top-100 asset on a rental player they liked but didn’t necessarily see as a game-changer.

Safety Eric Berry is one of the defensive players Kansas City expects back in a few weeks. (AP)
Safety Eric Berry is one of the defensive players Kansas City expects back in a few weeks. (AP)

And that, again, is where the real shame of all this lies. The Chiefs — as Yahoo Sports first reported — were confident they would get a deal done for a player who fits that mold in Seattle free safety Earl Thomas, at least prior to his season-ending leg injury in late September. While Clinton-Dix and Thomas are both single-high safeties, Thomas’ elite range, motor, ball skills and tackling ferocity all stood out, even at age 29, making him the type of addition who could take this defense to another level.

That possibility, however, got flushed down the drain with the broken leg injury, meaning any defensive improvement in 2018 will now have to come from within, which isn’t impossible.

The defense has looked much better in recent weeks, as several young rookie defenders are starting to catch on, and help appears to be on the way in the secondary too, as Sorensen is expected to return from his knee injury soon while the club expects Berry to return from his heel injury later this season.

The Chiefs, by the way, will also have four top-100 picks — a first, two seconds and a third — in what’s already being regarded as a strong defensive draft in 2019. This provides them with more than enough ammunition to go up and select an impact corner or edge rusher in the first round, with the latter being a possibility given the uncertain contract situations of starters Dee Ford and Justin Houston. Don’t think that wasn’t also something they considered as they weighed whether to make a splashy deadline move.

So at the end of the day, with the market devoid of true high-impact defensive players, the Chiefs went with long-term viability around their young stud quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, over what they deemed as making a move just to make a move. And from a practical standpoint, it makes all kinds of sense.

And make no mistake about it, they also did so knowing that if the defense is the reason the Chiefs fall in the postseason again, fans in Kansas City will remember the Oct. 30 trade deadline — the day when their AFC-leading (but deeply flawed) team stood pat — as the trailer to the latest sequel in a long line of self-made, football “Halloween” horror flicks.

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