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Kansas City Chiefs: 3 way-too-early free agency targets for the offseason

Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are 12-4 and are one win away from the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years. Under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the team’s previously horrible unit from 2018 has suddenly become a strength this season. The addition of safety Tyrann Mathieu has changed both the culture and attitude of his side of the ball.

On offense, reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes’ numbers have fallen off but make no mistake; he’s still just as dangerous as ever. That was on full display in his five-touchdown performance in the Divisional Round vs. the Houston Texans. He has an embarrassment of weapons at his disposal despite not having much — if any — of a running game to fall back on.

Heading into the offseason, Kansas City doesn’t have many glaring holes. Running back, cornerback and linebacker are some areas that need to be addressed, though. Here are three players the team should target once free agency begins:

3. Austin Ekeler, Running Back

Ekeler has spent the first two seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Chargers. Backing up Melvin Gordon, he’s built a reputation as one of the best pass-catching backs the league has recently seen. Amassing 1,550 total scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019, he put together an impressive case as he hits restricted free agency this offseason.

Spotrac projects Ekeler would be worth $11.9 million per year on the open market. That seems quite high, but even if he comes close to it, that’ll be too much for Chiefs general manager Brett Veach to spend at the position. With other pressing matters to tend to (like a Mahomes extension), dropping that much on Ekeler would be silly. If the market for him isn’t as high, though, the Chiefs should make a run at him as a weapon for their star QB.

2. Brandon Marshall, Linebacker

Marshall spent six years with the Chiefs’ division-rival Broncos from 2013-2018. He didn’t play this season despite being known as a run-stuffer and intelligent inside linebacker. He’d come dirt cheap as he enters his age-31 season, and there are likely better options on the market. With that said, they’d come at a higher cost. If he has any left in the tank, perhaps the Chiefs should inquire about him on a prove-it deal with the upside to contribute in a set role in 2020.

1. Eli Apple, Cornerback

Apple has failed to live up to the expectations thrust upon him when he went No. 10 overall to the New York Giants in 2016. Traded to the New Orleans Saints for draft compensation in 2018, he hasn’t been good enough to see his team option picked up for the 2020 season. As he hits the market ahead of the next campaign, he’ll look to reset the narrative surrounding his play.

After intercepting two passes and defending another 14, Apple followed that up with zero and four this past season. While a disappointing year is unfortunate for him, it’s music to the Chiefs’ ears. Should Apple come cheap (as expected), he’d make a ton of sense to join KC on a one-year deal.