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Report: Jerick McKinnon Returns to Chiefs, Reshapes RB Room

Jerick McKinnon is reportedly rejoining the Chiefs for 2022. His addition brings a noteworthy twist to KC's running back rotation.

After an up-and-down regular season and a solid stretch in last year's playoff run, running back Jerick McKinnon is returning to the Kansas City Chiefs on a one-year deal, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. McKinnon, who turned 30 in May, returns as the Chiefs' most-veteran back while also presenting a unique skill set for the Chiefs' backfield.

Aug 14, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon (1) smiles on the bench during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

McKinnon's return seemed more unlikely after the Chiefs added former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II in March. Adding to the shakeup, Darrel Williams departed KC for the first time in his NFL career, joining the Arizona Cardinals. After drafting seventh-round Rutgers running back Isiah Pacheco in the 2022 NFL Draft, KC's running back room seemed settled. So why would the Chiefs and McKinnon reunite?

Aug 14, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon (1) eludes a tackle by San Francisco 49ers defensive back Marcell Harris (36) during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Questions remain regarding former first-round draft pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, ranging from his health to his usage. Meanwhile, Jones hasn't proven an ability to earn third-down work. Pacheco and former UDFA Derrick Gore are still relatively unknown as a seventh-round rookie and formerly undrafted player, though Gore made an impact at times in 2021.

The Chiefs would have been reasonable to second-guess their plans around their third-down running back role. McKinnon has shown that he, when healthy, can earn those snaps.

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Jan 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon (1) scores a touchdown during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With issues ranging from injuries to usage, McKinnon got just 12 carries during the 2022 regular season and caught 13 passes, with five carries and three receptions coming in Week 18. Then, in three playoff games, McKinnon took 34 carries for 150 yards (4.41 yards per attempt) in addition to 14 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. McKinnon's playoff usage and production outpaced his entire 2021 regular season. 

Were the Chiefs intentionally saving McKinnon's body for the playoff run? Did he need to prove something to the coaching staff over the course of the regular season? Do the Chiefs view McKinnon as a full-fledged piece of the offense in 2022? Those questions are difficult to answer from afar. In the meantime, on a one-year deal, the Chiefs appear to see value in McKinnon's return, adding an experienced third-down back to a group that now has depth and variety — typically a good sign for an NFL backfield.

Read More: Film Review: How the Chiefs Can Maximize Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2022