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Chiefs offseason issues: Who plays where in the secondary?

The Kansas City Chiefs gathered on Monday for the start of their offseason program, though they won’t be on the field for their first full-squad practice for about a month. Still, the offseason program gives them a chance to at least start to settle several of the issues that confront them.

We’re looking here at one of those issues: Separating the contenders from the pretenders in the secondary.

The Chiefs lost three valued members of their secondary during the offseason, cornerback Sean Smith and safety Tyvon Branch to free agency and safety Husain Abdullah to retirement. Their secondary additions, so far? Veteran safeties Jimmy Wilson, who was released by the Chargers late last season, and Stevie Brown, who didn’t play at all last year.

The Chiefs have some work to do figuring out who fits where and what roles everyone will play. This process would become even more complex if the Chiefs select one or more defensive backs in the upcoming draft.

For now, the Chiefs have as many as seven serious contenders for playing time at safety. Eric Berry and Ron Parker start, but five safeties played a lot for Kansas City last year and the Chiefs need to find their best lineups for all the various game situations and offensive formations they will face.

The leading contenders for backup playing time are Daniel Sorensen, who played for the Chiefs last year, converted cornerback Jamell Fleming and a group of veterans from others teams including Wilson, Brown and Jordan Kovacs.

At corner, the Chiefs have even fewer players they can count on. Marcus Peters was last year’s NFL defensive rookie of the year, but he's about it. The Chiefs were encouraged by the play of 2014 draft pick Phillip Gaines last year before his season ended early because of a torn ACL. They expect Gaines back at full strength for the start of training camp.

The Chiefs also have Steven Nelson, a third-round draft pick last year who didn’t play much as a rookie, and Marcus Cooper, a former starter whose play has deteriorated rapidly.

The Chiefs almost certainly have to add a cornerback, either through the draft or in free agency.