Before the end of Saturday's mandatory roster cutdown deadline, the Kansas City Chiefs released defensive end Breeland Speaks. By his play on the field, that wouldn't be surprising. By his original draft position, it certainly is.
Speaks was the 46th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach's first draft at the helm of the team. The Chiefs traded up to get Speaks, sending the 54th and 78th pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for the 46th and 100th picks.
The Speaks move is, by far, the biggest miss in Veach's time as GM of the Chiefs. This comes on the heels of maybe the most impressive offseason ever, turning $177 in cap space into extensions for Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones and Travis Kelce, so take that flaw with an entire block of salt. Still, though, second-round picks rarely get the boot after their second season with the team.
Speaks played largely out of position in then-defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's scheme, then Speaks suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2019 preseason before also being suspended for four games while being injured.
On Sunday, Veach discussed the team's decision to release Speaks ahead of his third NFL season after a disappointing training camp.
“That was certainly a unique scenario where, of all the positions – I certainly think we have a very good roster, a very talented roster – that defensive line position is probably our deepest position," Veach said. He noted that Speaks was learning a different scheme than he was in his rookie season, but that he and the staff thought Breeland was laying a foundation in his rookie year.
"And we all know that he came in a little out of shape the next year, and then he had the injury," Veach said. "So, I think when you get behind the eight-ball in professional football it’s tough, and then when you get behind the eight-ball on a roster with a deep defensive line, it’s even tougher. I will say this – credit to the kid – he did come in in shape and worked hard to get that weight off. Again, he was just up against a very deep and talented defensive line class. Our staff, both coaching and personnel staff, we’re always committed to doing what we feel is best for the team and playing the best players, and the guys that are on our active roster, we felt that day-by-day and the way they graded out, they just performed better and they deserve to be on the team.”
Veach later talked more about Speaks' struggle to return to full health before turning the focus back to the Chiefs' depth at defensive end.
"Again, it certainly did put him behind the eight-ball in that regard," Veach said. "Not having a year of football is certainly going to be tough, and then when you throw in the factor of having [Frank] Clark and Tanoh [Kpassagnon] and [Alex] Okafor, Taco [Charlton] had a good camp, obviously he made the roster, and Mike Danna had a really good camp, so it was just one of those scenarios for him where having the year off, having to go through a lengthy rehab process and going out there competing against that deep defensive line was a tough ask. He competed his tail off and I'm sure he'll learn a lot from this experience here and it will help him in the future.”
Speaks was not selected to be a member of the Chiefs' expanded practice squad.