Here are seven things we learned during Kansas City Chiefs' general manager Brett Veach's conference call on Thursday afternoon:
Q: How do you feel the process of getting tougher and more physical is going on defense?
"I think that it is a process and we have a lot of young guys on this defense. I think one of the things we wanted to do was to bring in guys that were versatile and that could do different things. Now certainly, going from 3-4 to probably more of a 4-3 defense, these guys will obviously still fit in that role. I thought the young guys did a good job as the season went on. Derrick Nnadi logged a lot of starts.
"Breeland (Speaks) had a nice span in there when Justin (Houston) was out and played a lot of football. Dorian (O'Daniel) had a chance to do some things. Armani (Watts) was coming on too before he got hurt. Then when you factor in Charvarius Ward really starting at the end of this season, and you factor him in with this rookie class, you have a bunch of guys moving forward. Nnadi is a starter already, and between Nnadi and Ward, and Breeland should fit nicely in a 4-3 defensive end role. We feel good and we also feel good that these guys are going to continue to grow and get better and work hard at their craft."
Q: Are the guys on your front seven versatile enough to fit into whatever scheme you might run next year
"Yeah, certainly. Obviously, Chris (Jones) is a type of guy that can play in any scheme and having a premier pass rusher is a good thing to have, so Chris can do anything, he can play all along the line. Certainly, (Derrick) Nnadi will have a role as such a good stout run defender. Breeland (Speaks), most people and even our organization too, thought his natural fit was more of a 4-3 D-end, but we liked his versatility back a year ago as potentially a 3-4 5-technique, too.
"I certainly think that we have a bunch of versatility along the line there. Justin (Houston) and Dee (Ford) too, both of those guys can play in this scheme and do well. We like the pieces that are in place and we're anxious to get this offseason started."
Q: What does Steve Spagnuolo bring and how does he fit in with what you guys are looking for?
"We're excited about Steve. Steve is a high-energy guy and he obviously worked with Coach (Reid) in the past and has a great track record. The things he did in New York were really, really impressive. He's been around the league a long time, he knows the game really well, he's a great teacher, he's a great coach, great family man.
"He's going to fit right in here. It's been fun, even the last few days of him being in the office and being able to bounce some stuff off him. Looking forward to working with him this offseason and trying to put the pieces in place."
Q: Where do things stand with Dee Ford heading into this offseason and how proactive are you about extending the guys that become free agents in 2020?
"First with Dee (Ford), he had an outstanding season. He was at the top of his game. Really, when we drafted Dee (Ford) a few years ago, all those things that we envisioned for him, he kind of showed that he was that player. We are running a different scheme now and Steve (Spagnuolo) has had the chance to start the process on Monday of going through the roster and kind of look at these guys not knowing where they were drafted or how much money they are making. He will just give you a pure feel on strengths, weaknesses and how we can get better. And then we will throw our dialogue in there with the other information in regard to what we can do to get creative in regard to structuring things from a cap standpoint.
"Obviously, Dee is a player that has done so much for us, in particular, last year. We are excited about bringing him back. And then with Chris (Jones) and Tyreek (Hill), you are talking about two guys that are now eligible for extensions. They are guys that we drafted and guys that have done tremendously in regard to just getting better year-in and year-out and being dominant players. We will certainly have a lot of dialogue with the agents as we get close to the combine. We want them here a long time and I'm sure they want to be here, which is a good thing. Certainly, we have a special thing brewing here and I think everyone wants to keep this thing rolling. I look forward to getting with their agents.
"If we don't hear from them in the next week or two, we are all going to be at the combine together and I'm sure there will be a lot of discussions in how we can make this work for everyone."
Q: How does the workload this offseason compare to other offseasons?
"Well, every year is different. Certainly, every team would like to go into every offseason with a ton of cap space. We have had some issues over the years in regard to cap space. Working through some of the things we have learned over the years since 2013 and how to get more creative and be more flexible. There is a price to pay when you have good players and when you are in the playoffs five out of six years, you are going to have good players and good teams and tough decisions to make.
"I think the good thing about some of these issues that do come up, cap space and this and that, it really is a testament to the organization and the team and the things you have been able to accomplish because you are doing really well. You have a lot of valuable players out there. Sometimes it is hard to fit everybody. We have some guys that are up this year that we would love to have back, and we are going to try to get back, but it just won't work. Again, it goes back to our ability to bring in good players and to continue to win. As Coach (Reid) always mentions it is hard to win in this league consistently. I think really six years, only one year we missed the playoffs. I think to do that, you have to have good players.
"Eventually, those players are (free agents). And when they do, they are going to make money and test the waters. But we believe in our process here. We have a great coaching staff that developed young talent. We have a great personnel staff, great ownership. I don't think we will ever be a team that has 60 million dollars in the offseason. But, again, we are always going to be able to identify talent and to continue to build depth and be competitive year in and year out."
Q: You've been a fan of Patrick Mahomes since he's been here, if you went through the season play-by-play, was there much he did to surprise you over the course of the season?
"No, because obviously he is a tremendous talent, and we had the chance to see him in college and then you saw it all last year, in preseason and his one start. You knew it was inevitable, it was coming. That's kind of why I said some of the things I said last year at the combine. You kind of knew it was coming. I would say the thing that surprised me was the ease at which he did it, the consistency at which he did it.
"Even with the great players who are young, I think you always anticipate maybe a wall. At some point after seven or eight weeks they figure this kid out, they know a couple of different looks, coverages or combinations that give him issues, but there were never really any issues. There was never really a time where that happened. Maybe when we went to New England on the road, we were like, 'Okay, maybe this is the time.' But then in the second half he just roped through their defense and continued on.
"I think the thing that surprised me was the ease at which he did it and again, I know his rookie year he didn't play, but if you consider this his rookie year, I think a lot of these young players do hit a wall in the length of the season. Teams figure out their weaknesses and try to expose them more. The fact the long season didn't get to him or the pressure and he never really hit a wall was probably the most surprising thing."
Q: What kind of development do you see from Kahlil McKenzie that makes you think he could contribute in year two?
"When you talk about Kahlil (McKenzie) you have to talk about Andy Heck. He's done such a great job here. Look at the offensive line. We were able to bring in Cam Erving from Cleveland, who struggled there, and Cam has turned into a really valuable asset for us because he can play a variety of positions. You talk about a guy like Andrew Wylie. Andrew was cut from a few teams' practice squads and he ended up starting a bunch of games.
"Austin Reiter was a guy we claimed on the waiver wire, period. He started, and we re-signed him because we feel he can do some different things and start for us if he had to but be a really good backup center. I think it starts with our trust and belief in Andy Heck because he does a great job. I think going back to Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. When Tardif came out, he had some tape from McGill that wasn't Alabama or Auburn, it was Canadian tape and looked like division two or three football, but then you start thinking about our system in place that can make these guys players. Now you have another case with Kahlil, a really good athlete that has a ton of ability. He's a guy who's smart and been around football his entire life. You just like the fact you have a kid who's been around the game a long time, a ton of athletic ability, and combine him with a great coach, a great teacher, and feel good about his chances moving forward.
"Even when we first got him in OTAs, it was rough around the edges. The first few training camps it was not very pretty. It was just like Tardif, it was not pretty the first preseason game, but by the end of it, he was flashing a little. We have had similar discussions in our staff meetings where it's been a little rough but then they figure it out. It goes back to our coaching staff and the work they do with them. We are excited because we've followed a similar path with other players. We have shown a track record of being able to do that with some of these young offensive linemen."