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Grading The Chiefs’ 2021 Free Agent Signings

We’re now one year removed from last year’s free agency period, and with that, it’s time to hand out letter grades to the most notable Chiefs’ signings from the last offseason.

Grading will go as such: A+, A-, B+, B-, C+, C-, D, and F.

Kyle Long, Guard

Deal Signed: (One-year/$1.5M)

Kyle Long is likely the biggest disappointment on this list as he failed to play a single snap in 2021 and spent the first six weeks of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list after breaking a bone in his leg back in June 2021 during team OTAs.

Many fans probably forget that the former All-Pro guard was a very excitable signing for the Chiefs last March. Kansas City was a team last offseason chasing improvement along the offensive line after the abysmal protection meltdown in Super Bowl LV. Long was seen as the strong likely candidate to become Kansas City’s starting right guard for the 2021 season, but to everyone’s surprise, the Chiefs found their starting RG in the sixth round of the NFL Draft, Trey Smith… Not exactly a fair fight for the 32-year old offensive lineman coming out of retirement.

The #Chiefs found two gems 💎💎 – Trey Smith (highest-graded rookie guard, per @PFF) – Creed Humphrey (highest-graded rookie center, per @PFF)#SORN | #ChiefsKingdom — Sea of Red Nation (@seaofrednation) March 5, 2022

It was well documented that Long may not be the same player he once was was when the Chiefs signed the offensive guard last offseason. Still, for $1.5 million, you’d hope for at least full availability throughout the season in case of injury.

Final Grade: (C-)

Even though he failed to play a snap in 2021, Long provided valuable tutorship and knowledge to young players such as Trey Smith and Creed Humphrey, which is good enough to keep Long from falling to a D grading.

Michael Burton, Fullback

Deal Signed: (One-year/$990K)

The Chiefs signed Michael Burton last offseason to replace fan favorite and longtime Kansas City fullback Anthony Sherman.

Obviously, with a position like fullback, you have to be pretty awful or have signed a contract that exceeds a couple million annually to be labeled a bad signing. The position has gone almost extinct throughout the league over the last several years.

Despite the fact, Burton signed with the Chiefs for less than a million and enjoyed career success in an Andy Reid offense that still likes to utilize the fullback position from time to time. Burton, 29, even scored his first touchdown since his rookie season, punching it into the end zone against the Chargers in that critical Week 15 TNF game.

FULLBACK TOUCHDOWN Michael Burton 1st TD +10000✅ — Barstool Sportsbook (@BSSportsbook) December 17, 2021

There’s not a ton more to talk about here, but it is noteworthy to add that Burton finished 2021 with the most rushing yards and touchdowns of his seven-year career.

Final Grade: (B+)

Burton turned into a capable replacement for Anthony Sherman and earned himself another one-year contract with the Chiefs in 2022. Just impossible to grade a fullback signing anything higher than a B+.

Jarran Reed, Defensive Tackle

Contract Signed: (One-year/$7M)

Jarran Reed was the second biggest free-agent signing for the Chiefs in 2021. The veteran tackle had spent his previous five seasons with the Seattle Seahawks before signing with Kansas City last March.

Reed had a bit of an up and down season, starting 2021 shaky and inconsistent and losing playing time to Derrick Nnadi, then showing his capabilities down the stretch and into the playoffs. Together with Chris Jones, Reed and the Chiefs star DT formed quite the formable duo up the middle.

In the second half of the season, Jarran Reed was a difference-maker for Kansas City up the middle and was one of the reasons for the Chiefs’ improvement in pass rush after the acquisition of Melvin Ingram.

Jarran Reed in the AFC Championship Game. This is a nice bull rush with an arm over to create a pressure. At least I thought it was a screen but nope … just really bad spacing lol — Peter Bukowski (@Peter_Bukowski) March 22, 2022

Reed was a solid contributor for a Chiefs team that reached their fourth straight AFC Championship game and managed to make some big plays in several games. For seven million dollars, though, you would’ve hoped for a more consistent impact throughout the season.

Final Grade: (C+)

Jarran Reed turned into a decent signing for the Chiefs, but they could’ve got the same or very similar productivity from a much cheaper alternative.

Joe Thuney, Guard

Deal Signed: (Five-years/$80M)

Thuney is far and away the best signing the Chiefs made in 2021. Kansas City gave the veteran offensive lineman a five-year deal with $48 million guaranteed.

Initially, when the Chiefs made this signing last offseason, I admit that I thought Kansas City may have overpaid for Thuney out of desperation. I could not have been more wrong.

Thuney was a model of consistency and stellar play throughout 2021. The former Patriot helped anchor the left side of Kansas City’s offensive line and was a vast reason for the improved protection for Patrick Mahomes this last season.

Orlando Brown and Joe Thuney have solidified the left side of the offensive line 🙌 Thuney: 86.8 Pass Block Grade (1st among LGs) Brown: 76.8 PFF Grade (12th among LTs) — PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) December 8, 2021

Thuney even showed off his versatility in the Week 17 matchup against Cincinnati. With injuries to Orlando Brown Jr. and Lucas Niang, Thuney was forced to slide into the left tackle spot, and he filled in impeccably, allowing zero sacks to Patrick Mahomes.

Joe Thuney is the veteran and glue of Kansas City’s new re-formed offensive line in 2022 and beyond.

Final Grade: (A+)

The Chiefs knocked this signing out of the ballpark. Joe Thuney has been worth every single penny thus far.

How would you grade the Chiefs’ 2021 free agency signings? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion.

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