Patrick Mahomes’s knee injury, suffered during the Chiefs’ Thursday night’s 30–6 win over the Broncos, has thrown a lot into question very quickly in Kansas City. An NFL MVP frontrunner, Mahomes has elevated Andy Reid’s offense into something spectacular, but now there’s a chance he isn’t under center for an extended period of time. It’s safe to say the offense will not be the same without him, no matter how long the projected recovery time actually is.
While we’re on that subject, Kansas City should be as cautious as humanly possible with Mahomes. I think Reid learned an important lesson on Thursday night after calling for Mahomes to plunge forward on a quarterback sneak having already suffered a high ankle sprain weeks before. This is a generational talent who should be cared for as such. Putting him out on the field at less than 100% would represent gross negligence on behalf of the franchise.
Besides, Reid has enough talent around him to stay competitive in 2019, especially if he finds the right backup to guide the offense in Mahomes’s absence. This is not a shot at Matt Moore, who performed ably on Thursday despite having taken no starting reps in practice as a member of the Chiefs; it’s just a recognition that Kansas City will need to make a move at some point.
So, what should the Chiefs do? A lot depends on the eventual timetable. Mahomes’s MRI reportedly shows that he suffered no significant damage aside from a dislocated kneecap, which means the QB will miss at least three weeks—though plenty of outside factors could influence the ultimate return date. This is why we have a short, medium and long-range plan to keep them afloat.
Short-term plan: Trade for Ryan Fitzpatrick
The one thing the Miami Dolphins are probably bummed out about right now is that they’ve run out of tradable assets. There isn’t much left to gut from this team. Giving away Fitzpatrick for a late-round pick would represent a boon for an organization that is actively trying to lose games anyway (even though Fitzpatrick was recently reinstalled as their starting quarterback). Fitzpatrick is not the perfect solution but is a solid addition who played well in relief during his return to the lineup last week. And while he does not always hit on deep balls with regularity, he is one of the few players available who would attempt them with some regularity, thus legitimizing Kansas City’s stable of deep threats, who keep the offense moving.
Estimated cost: The remainder of Fitzpatrick’s 2019 salary ($1.5 million base) and a conditional sixth-round pick
Mid-range plan: Trade for Nick Mullens
Many of us have forgotten about San Francisco’s one-year wonder, who went 3-5 in eight starts with a 64% completion rate, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while Jimmy Garoppolo was shelved in 2018. The former undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi would receive rave reviews from a few tenured offensive coaches in the league if Reid started calling around. And, at $570,000 he’s incredibly affordable for a Chiefs team that would like to do this as responsibly as possible. Mullens could also slide in as a long-term developmental project for Reid, giving him a higher upside at the backup spot than he currently has.
A few problems with this suggestion: The 49ers may not want to deal one of their two backups given Garoppolo’s injury history, especially since Mullens beat out CJ Beathard in camp. Reid also seems to favor the dynamic of an older, more experienced veteran as a long-term backup, but unfortunately Chase Daniel is not available right now given his current role in Chicago.
Estimated cost: A mid-round pick (third or fourth) with a possible late-round kicker.
Long-term plan: Trade for Marcus Mariota
I would like to see Reid get a shot at an athletic, versatile talent like Mariota. The Titans may not want to signal an end to their season at 2-4, but they may also want to give Ryan Tannehill some breathing room as their newly-named starting quarterback. This would take an investment by Kansas City that is equal to or greater than the compensatory return they might get by letting the former No. 2 overall pick go in free agency. Another hiccup here is the remaining money left on Mariota’s fifth-year option ($20,922,000).
Could the Chiefs theoretically negotiate a deal where they up their ante in exchange for the Titans digesting some of the salary? I think this is desirable from Mariota’s perspective, as a good number of coaches are now running a version of Reid’s system and elevating his play in the short term could make him more desirable in 2020.
Just a warning: I could be way off on my compensation estimate here and it’s just a guess. But I also think Mariota keeps Kansas City’s season moving in the event of a long-term injury.
Estimated Cost: Second-round pick + salary dump
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