NFL mailbag: Tyreek Hill, Jets’ draft needs and more

Welcome to the inaugural mailbag … AKA Verderame’s Verdicts. I answer your NFL questions and hopefully don’t embarrass myself too much.

A new series!? A new series!

Every week, I enjoy writing Stacking The Box and producing the subsequent podcast alongside my cohort, Josh Hill. While those entities are both fulfilling and hopefully informative, there’s a missing piece… a personal interaction with the readers.

That’s where the mailbag — Verderame’s Verdicts — comes in. Each week, I’m going to be asking for questions on Twitter and then respond to as many inquiries as possible before publishing on Friday. Let’s have some fun.

Now, for the maiden voyage…

Alright, so there are rules to this thing. A team that has made the playoffs in each of the last two years can refuse. So can a franchise with a new head coach, or that has appeared on the series over the last decade.

This leaves five choices in the 49ers, Lions, Raiders, Redskins and Giants. Oakland is obviously the choice.

Look, the Raiders are going to be insanely compelling. Jon Gruden is trying to redeem himself and that $100 million deal of his after a hideous first campaign. Antonio Brown and Vontaze Burfict are sharing a locker room. The organization is readying for a move to Las Vegas. The script writes itself.

Additionally, who else is exciting? Do you really want to see Case Keenum or Eli Manning on your television? The 49ers are somewhat interesting with Jimmy Garoppolo returning, but nothing compares to Oakland.

I lumped these together because there’s an overriding question at the heart of these tweets. In short, what’s going to happen with Tyreek Hill, and if he’s gone, how impacted are the Chiefs?

I’m not going to rehash the situation with Hill because everybody knows the particulars at this point. To me, the answer here is both impossible and simple.

If Hill is found guilty of battery against a juvenile, the Chiefs have to release him.

Kansas City has an ugly history in recent years with their players committing horrific crimes, including Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide, Kareem Hunt kicking a 19-year-old woman, and the selection of Hill despite him strangling his pregnant girlfriend while at Oklahoma State. If the Kansas City Star’s report is correct and Hill broke his 3-year-old son’s arm, he’s done.

Now, has he spoken to General Manager Brett Veach and Head Coach Andy Reid at this point? It’s impossible to think he hasn’t. The Chiefs are very aware of the situation, and so not speaking to Hill about it would be negligent. The CBA does prohibit certain types of communications, but nothing is stopping the team from investigating a potential crime.

At this point, I don’t believe it’s a foregone conclusion that Hill isn’t on the team in 2019. A source told me a month ago that the Chiefs planned to extend Hill on a lucrative deal, so he was recently in good graces. If no charges are filed, or he’s found innocent of future charges, Kansas City likely won’t release him.

Some point to how the Chiefs handled Hunt, but this is a different situation. For starters, there’s no video of the alleged incident with Hill. Second, and this is the ugly truth, Hill means more than Hunt ever did to Kansas City’s success. The Chiefs could always survive and thrive without Hunt. That’s not the case with Hill.

If the team does end up releasing Hill, it would seriously impact their offense. There’s a common refrain on social media that the Chiefs would be fine because they have Patrick Mahomes and that covers all warts. The truth is that without Hill, Mahomes is still great, but he’s now looking at a three-wide lineup of Sammy Watkins (when healthy), Demarcus Robinson and Gehrig Dieter. That’s well below standard.

Should Hill be elsewhere in 2019, are the Los Angeles Chargers the favorite in the AFC West? Tough to say with the draft still coming up, but Kansas City would undeniably be weaker than it was a year ago.

If you posed this question to 100 people, you’d likely get a 50/50 split. My answer? Corner.

The Chiefs are going to score 30+ points in most games, which means the other team is throwing early and often. It also means the opponent is predictable. Kansas City led the league with 52 sacks a season ago, largely because the front seven could tee off without worrying about the run. That will be the case again in 2019.

All that said, you better be able to cover if a team is throwing 50 times in a game. The Chiefs had a ton of pass rush last year and ranked 31st in total defense. Fix the secondary, and while the pass rush may not be league-leading, it’ll be solid. Alex Okafor is an upgrade in that department over Allen Bailey, and I believe Breeland Speaks in the 4-3 will be a much-improved player.

The signings of Tyrann Mathieu and Bashaud Breeland are really nice moves, but a corner in the first two rounds of the draft would be wise.

More on the Chiefs … Ron Parker was versatile earlier in his career as both a slot corner and a safety, but I wouldn’t expect Tre Boston to fill that role if he lands in Kansas City. If anything, look for the Honey Badger to do plenty of that if the job is required.

A three-parter!

1. Yes, a million times. Justin Houston had nine sacks in 12 games last year, and then notched two against the Colts in the playoffs. He’s not the same guy who racked up 22 sacks in 2014, but he’s still a terrific player. A source told me that Houston was hoping for something similar to Brandon Graham’s deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, and while that was a three-year deal, this came in at almost the sam financial valuation. This was a home run for Indianapolis.

2. It’s possible. The Chiefs have been rumored to have interest in Jordy Nelson, and with the looming cloud over Tyreek Hill, it makes sense. I can’t see it being more than a two-year, $8 million deal with all the guaranteed money in the first year, essentially making 2020 an option.

3. Ah, grading free agency. Always a good time! It’s an impossible question, but give me the Browns. They added Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson, along with Kareem Hunt. That’s a ton of talent while still maintaining a decent amount of cap space.

Alright, that’s it for this week! Please follow me on Twitter and send me questions throughout the week either as a response to my prompts for them, or simply with the hashtag #VerderameVerdicts and I’ll respond.

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