The Kansas City Chiefs will appear in the Super Bowl for the third time in four years. Over the course of the regular season, Kansas City produced two winning streaks of five games and never lost back-to-back games en route to a 14-3 record.
The brain trust of head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes are considered underdogs more than a week out from the big game. How did they assemble this Super Bowl caliber roster?
When exploring how the Chiefs roster was built, it boils down to the selection of Mahomes at No. 10 overall as part of the 2017 NFL Draft. The presence of Mahomes gives the team a chance to compete at the highest level. Kansas City allocates 20.97% of its salary cap space to the quarterback position; the third-highest mark in the league, according to Spotrac.
The average age of a player on Kansas City's roster is 26.22 years old. They have nine players over 30 years old while also rostering 11 rookies; a key way to off-set Mahomes' large salary cap hit.
The franchise ranks in the top 10 of positional spending at two other spots: tight end and defensive line. Travis Kelce obviously props up tight end spending with a $14.8 million salary cap hit in 2022 but they spend more on the defensive line (29.54%) than any other team. Defensive tackle Chris Jones has a $28.3 million salary cap hit alone. Edge rusher Frank Clark contributes a $13.3 million salary cap hit and edge rusher George Karlaftis was the team's first-round selection last year.
General manager Brett Veach has used every method at his disposal to improve the offensive line. Two of the five starters were drafted, two of the five starters were signed as free agents and the remaining starter, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., was acquired in a trade with Baltimore. Those five starters have a combined 21 years of experience in the NFL.
The biggest off-season move, however, was a trade that sent star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami. In his absence, the team averaged the most passing yards per game and the third-highest yards per completion during the regular season. Free agent signings JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling were on the receiving end of 120 Mahomes completions this season. General manager Brett Veach was able to cobble together production elsewhere with the selection of wide receiver Skyy Moore in the second round and trading for Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney.
The offense has not reached this point in the calendar without some help. Steve Spagnuolo's defense showed improvement during the second half of the season. Over the first seven games of the regular season, the Chiefs posted negative defensive EPA in five, according to TruMedia. They had a negative defensive EPA in just two of the final ten games.
The Chiefs have done a great job of supplementing other positions on the roster through the draft. Linebackers Willie Gay and Nick Bolton, cornerbacks Jaylen Watson, Trent McDuffie, La'Jarius Sneed, Joshua Williams and Nazeeh Johnson, and safeties Juan Thornhill and Bryan Cook were all drafted by the organization. Only two of the 14 players playing at linebacker and in the secondary were brought in from other teams. There is no doubt that the defense benefits from continuity in Spagnuolo's fourth-season leading the defense.
If Kansas City is able to win its second Super Bowl in four years, it will likely be a result of Mahomes' performance. However, leadership has pulled all the right levers allowing them to reach the pinnacle of the sport.