Chiefs' success leaves 'razor-thin' margin for error in the offseason

Hasselbeck: Chiefs face tough decision between Jones and Sneed (1:27)

Tim Hasselbeck explains why the Chiefs could struggle to bring back both the franchise-tagged L'Jarius Sneed and Chris Jones. (1:27)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After winning three Super Bowls in the past five seasons and being the first team to win back-to-back championships in 20 years, the Kansas City Chiefs have made the art of staying on top look simple.

To general manager Brett Veach, it has been anything but. Between paying core players like quarterback Patrick Mahomes, keeping the rest of the roster properly stocked and drafting at or near the end of every round, Veach believes every decision needs to be perfect.

"There's a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety in every offseason because you have small windows and you don't have the ability to make a ton of mistakes," Veach said this week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. "Your margin for error is razor-thin, so you got to be good on your draft picks and you got to be good on your free agency. Guys that come in here, they have to play. They have to produce right away because you don't have a ton in regards to excess picks or excess money. So you got to be efficient with what you have."

Not every move Veach and the Chiefs have made has worked out as they hoped, but they hit on enough to keep the Chiefs successful. Their 2022 draft yielded six players who are now defensive regulars, including a 2023 first-team All-Pro in cornerback Trent McDuffie and a defensive end who was tied for the team lead in sacks last season (10.5) in George Karlaftis. The Chiefs also found starting running back Isiah Pacheco in the seventh round that year.

Last year, they fared well in free agency on defense, adding major contributors in end Charles Omenihu, linebacker Drue Tranquill and safety Mike Edwards.

Veach and the Chiefs have much to tend to this year. They plan to place the franchise tag on cornerback L'Jarius Sneed if he can't first be re-signed or traded. Defensive tackle Chris Jones heads a list of potential free agents that also includes defensive lineman Mike Danna and linebacker Willie Gay.

"You'd like to be able to tag all the guys and pay all the guys," Veach said. "It's tough because the more you win, the more you've got to pay players and obviously when you have this amount of success, you're paying a lot of players a lot of money and then it's equally as tough because you're drafting late.

"So there are challenges. We'll go through them, and we'll always put our best foot forward. Certainly we want to do what we can to try to keep [Sneed and Jones], and that's going to be our goal and intent. Hopefully we're able to figure something out. But every free agency is different, unique and crazy. ... Our goal is to try to get both those players done and then work down the rest of our roster."

The Chiefs will need to add at wide receiver. Rashee Rice had a big rookie season, catching 79 passes. But many of their other receivers failed to live up to the Chiefs' expectations, particularly Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore. The Chiefs released Valdes-Scantling on Wednesday.

The Chiefs also will need help on the defensive line, particularly if they fail to re-sign Jones. Danna, Tershawn Wharton and Derrick Nnadi are other potential free agents.

The process of filling those needs began this week at the combine for coach Andy Reid and his coaching staff, who were busy until recently with the demands of the season.

"This is our first taste of that as coaches," Reid said this week. "Brett and his staff have been locked in a room here for a week or two since the Super Bowl and they've been just grinding out players. But from a coach's standpoint, it's nice to get down here and have a chance to meet face to face with these kids and see what they're all about."