KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We won’t know for some time whether Brett Veach’s maneuvers will make the Kansas City Chiefs better or help them break out of the playoff rut they’ve been stuck in for more than two decades.
For now, his efforts deserve some applause.
Veach, who took over as the Chiefs’ general manager last July, completed his sixth trade this week. He’s on quite a pace, almost a trade for every month on the job.
The latest move will alter the course of the franchise, for better or worse. The Chiefs sent quarterback Alex Smith to Washington in exchange for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick.
That’s not a bad haul for Smith, considering he’ll turn 34 in May and is heading into the final season of his contract. The Chiefs, who are missing a first-round pick because of last year’s deal for quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, needed an extra draft choice. They aren’t looking at Fuller as a throw-in, but perhaps the bigger piece and a likely starter.
Throwing out Veach’s two minor deals -- the Chiefs last September traded a couple of reserve linemen for conditional seventh-round picks -- he’s unloaded Smith, backup linebacker D.J. Alexander, a fifth-round pick this year and a fourth-rounder in 2019.
All were, for the Chiefs, expendable parts. Smith had his best season last year, but the Chiefs needed to move him to make room for Mahomes. Alexander was a good special-teams player, but the Chiefs saw him as a liability on defense. The draft picks were middle-rounders.
In return, the Chiefs received Fuller, Washington’s third-round pick, linebackers Kevin Pierre-Louis and Reggie Ragland and offensive lineman Cam Erving. Ragland, like Fuller, will probably start next season. Pierre-Louis showed last year he has value and next season has a chance to be a regular, depending on other moves the Chiefs make. Erving might never be more than a backup, but he’s a former first-round draft pick and worth the look.
The pick from Washington isn’t a premium choice, but the Chiefs have done good work in recent years in the third round. The Chiefs have found tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt in the third round since Veach has been involved in the process.
It’s a concern the Chiefs are trading draft picks, particularly in a year when they don’t have a first-round choice. But they received one from Washington and will probably get a compensatory choice as well. Overthecap.com, which does a good job of projecting comp picks, suggests the Chiefs will get a sixth-round pick for losing quarterback Nick Foles in free agency last year.
Veach’s explanation for making some of these moves was a good one.
“We’re always going to value draft picks and we’re always going to build through the draft,” Veach said last year after trading for Ragland and Erving. “They’re just unique situations where if you can acquire younger players on their rookie [contracts] that you like, you have to look at [them]. You’ll have opportunities to recoup some picks in regards to those compensatory picks. We’ll get some of those back.
“If you’re able to get Reggie up and running ... that’s potentially a 2018 [second-, third- or fourth-round pick] that you’re not using on [an inside] linebacker,” Veach said. “That’s a trade-off. Now there’s a gamble because the kid has to get back to where he was. But if you believe in the kid and the player on tape and you believe in your training staff and the information that you’ve been given ... those are gambles that we’re willing to take.”
It will be interesting to see the other moves Veach makes in the next couple of months. Given his record since he’s been in charge, rest assured they’re coming.