Below are quotes from May 3, courtesy the Kansas City Chiefs
OPENING STATEMENT: “Excited to recap a fun weekend for us. Just really quick, I want to thank the support staff here, certainly Clark (Hunt), Andy (Reid) and Mark (Donovan) for all the support and trusting in me and my staff. I want to thank the coaches. I know they spend a lot of time when they get back from the last game of the season, they’ll come back and they have a lot of stuff on their plate in regards to putting together the practice plans for OTAs and the training camp coming up, so them taking time out of their day to meet with us and go over these prospects. And then lastly, our training staff. Same deal where they’re in there day in and day out working on players on our roster that need rehab. But for those guys to take time out of their day and to travel to Indy and get the notes and continue to update us as the process goes along with the pro days, they’ve been obviously a huge help in this. And lastly, my staff has just been amazing with the work they’ve done coming into this process with a lot of draft picks, a lot of different scenarios. Guys were just amazing, and I can’t thank them enough. And with that, I’ll open it up for questions.”
Q: When did you make the decision to focus on the defense in this draft?
VEACH: “I think it was always at the forefront. I don’t know if it was as a dramatic of a mindset as what we experienced in the Super Bowl. That was just kind of like the perfect storm of guys that have played a lot of football for us, in particular the tackle position, that got hurt. One ended up retiring and we just got really old, really quick, and that was a situation where when you combine that with the best player in the league and a franchise quarterback, that’s kind of like, ‘Let’s go, let’s go.’ This, I mean, you have to have balance on both sides of the football, and we wanted to upgrade the youth, the talent and the depth on the defensive side. We also did some stuff offensively in free agency. We brought in JuJu (Smith-Schuster), and we brought in MVS (Marquez Valdes-Scantling), and we brought in RoJo (Ronald Jones). We were able to re-sign (Chad) Henne and (Andrew) Wylie, so I think we look at things on both ends, both draft and free agency. Certainly, the draft was geared more toward defense, and I think it’s a combination of us wanting to certainly get better and get deeper and younger, but had we not been able to sign the Smith-Schuster’s and the MVS’s and the Ro Jo’s, it maybe deviates a little. But I think it’s a combination of both processes.”
Q: Why did you trade for Lonnie Johnson, and why now after the draft and not before the draft?
VEACH: “I think there was a little bit of dialogue during the trade deadline. Trade deadlines are tricky because when you’re not with a team in the offseason, during training camp and the playbook and that cohesiveness is not there, it’s a little bit tricky. Melvin Ingram was a little different because he had played so long in the league, and he’s a guy that was a little bit of an outlier. Sometimes those guys are. So, I think it just kind of picked up there, and then when the draft ended, we had just stayed in contact with them. We’ve been in contact with these teams before the draft, so we always have the initial phone call, which is, ‘Let us know what you’re thinking of doing early, on moving up or moving down,’ and then ‘as the draft goes on, let us know if there are any players that you know you may be willing to move for either a pick this year or next year,’ what have you. So, we just kind of make a note for all of those conversations. He was a guy that his name has gotten brought up and we did have some extensive experience with him. Coach (Matt) House was here – we went through the process with Lonnie coming out – he (House) was with him at Kentucky, and then obviously Justin (Reid) played with him in Houston. So, we were able to talk to both people, and I think Lonnie was in a situation where he bounced around corner to safety, back to corner, back to safety, and you know, we look pretty good here at safety between Justin and Juan (Thornhill) and now Bryan Cook and Deon Bush, we’re good. We have some corners we like, but we also like big, long, press corners. We know he can press and he’s physical, and I think he’ll come in here and compete, and like I said, we feel good in regards to what we have in Trent (McDuffie) and (L’Jarius) Sneed and (Rashad) Fenton is guy that we’re high on, really confident in. He’s going through a little bit of rehab right now, so hopefully we get him for the start of training camp. But I think from what we did going into the draft through the late-round picks, we were able to pull the trigger in the mid rounds and then a couple late-round corners, plus Lonnie, I think we’ll have a ton of competition coming for those three, four, five spots.”
Q: Can you give us an update on what you’re expecting from Justyn Ross?
VEACH: “With Justyn, everyone kind of knows his story, he’s certainly a really talented individual that had gone through his share of injuries at Clemson. If you kind of go back to last year during the Trey Smith setup, I’ve always said that our docs are on the more conservative side. We’ve spent a lot of time, and I know our docs at KU (The University of Kansas Health System) spent a lot of time talking to the experts that dealt with Justyn, and he’s cleared. I think really when you take away the neck situation, and again, our docs did a great job of exhausting all of the information, I think for me it’s a little easier on how I operate. I know how good our medical staff is, both (Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance) Rick (Burkholder) and his crew and the docs we have at KU that if they tell me yes, I feel good. If they tell me no, I don’t try to become a doctor all of a sudden and try to say, ‘Well, this team said this.’ No, our docs say, ‘we’re good,’ we’re good, and Rick and his staff said, ‘we’re good.’ I think one of the things that popped up was a foot, and so that hindered him late in the season. And then I think he didn’t really have time to test and train, I think. So, I think it was a combination of a lot of things why he fell, and then obviously most of it had to do with a couple seasons ago with the neck, but I think then you throw in the foot, not having time to test. But I know his agent pretty well – Tory Dandy – he was Sammy Watkins’ agent. We stayed in touch as the draft went on, and when the draft ended, he was just going through some options, and we stayed in touch. Then yesterday we connected again, and he had a chance to review all the offers and the landscape of where everything was. He decided to come here. As far as expectations, like a lot of these guys, whether you’re a first-round pick or second-round pick, you’ve got to come in here and learn the playbook. You’ve got to have confidence in the coaching staff to execute your assignments. You have to have the confidence in Pat (Mahomes) for him to trust you to execute your assignment, and if he can do that, I’d say talent-wise, as long as he stays healthy, he’ll have a shot. It will just come down to him and how he handles the playbook and being moved around and staying healthy and being diligent in regards to looking ahead and preventing the things that he can do for his body. But there are a lot of these guys that are really in the same boat in that when you come in here, it’s really a combination of talent, being smart, staying on top of the training – and that means when you’re away from the facility, too. So, like a lot of these young guys, if he does those things, given the talent that he has, he should be able to come here and potentially contribute. But I think that’s the beauty of the 90-man roster where guys get to come in and I always tell them, we’ll keep the best players. Doesn’t matter where you’re drafted or where you’re selected, if that individual is going to come in here and earn a spot on the team, we’ll be good with that. But I just think it’ll be a very interesting competition for only five or six spots, I think we have a lot of talent there.”
Q: Knowing that you could still add a guy or two, and you used the UFA tender on Melvin Ingram, is the defensive line/defensive end group good enough to get you where you want to go as the roster sits right now?
VEACH: “Well I feel pretty good about the work we did in the offseason; we had a lot of things we had to accomplish. I feel good about our approach, I feel good about the plan we had. It was tricky, especially when the receiver market went crazy. Proud of my group for being able to adapt and adjust, and I think we did that. I feel good where we were from the Cincinnati game, through free agency and through this draft. I feel really good, and I’m really excited about not just the talent that we added to the team, but the quantity – I think we added a lot of good talent. But I don’t know if you ever really feel confident. You see it year-in and year-out. So much revolves around some injury luck and staying healthy. I don’t think a lot of teams would have interviewed the Bengals and said, ‘do you feel good that you guys can compete for a Super Bowl?’ And I don’t know how many people would have believed them. That’s why this league is so great. I feel good on paper, yeah. But there are so many things that can happen – injuries is one, how these young guys develop, how quickly they develop, we’ve got a young roster. I remember going back in 2019, we made all those moves and ended up winning the Super Bowl, we started off slow on defense. There could be a transitional period here with these guys – you’re talking about a rookie corner, a rookie linebacker, a rookie defensive end, a safety we brought in from Houston. It’s a lot of moving parts here. It looks good on paper but there is a ton of work that has to be done. This is the first part, these OTAs, getting everybody on the same page. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I think we have the guys and I think we have the wiring to be really good. How that all plays out remains to be seen. I think given our track record, given our coaching staff, given the fact that we have 15 (Patrick Mahomes), I feel optimistic.”
Q: The Rashad Fenton rehab, is that a back cleanup?
VEACH: “I think he had a shoulder. I’m sure (Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance) Rick (Burkholder) will talk about that either after OTAs or before (training camp). It’s something that I think he’ll be ready for training camp, but we certainly want to get some guys out here and be ready to roll, be in position to kind of know what we have.”
Q: You threw a lot of resources at defensive back during and around the draft. Was that an intentional move to get a bunch of numbers into camp and to see what sticks for Dave Merritt and Steve Spagnuolo? And what did you like about Joshua Williams?
VEACH: “Yeah, probably a combination of all those ideas. Going back to the (Joshua) Williams kid we took in the fourth, the small-school guys are always a little tricky because the level of competition. What stood out about him first were the pro day and the Combine work, how he looked moving and his times and testing. I think when you go back to the Senior Bowl, it’s always encouraging to see a guy struggle – I think he struggled early on – he looked like he didn’t belong there. But as the week went on, you saw that grit and you saw that toughness play out. It’s easy for a small-school guy to come in there and not have success early on and then kind of go into the tank, the old ‘hamstring’s sore, calf’s sore, we’re good.’ But it wasn’t like that, he struggled early on and kept fighting and battling. We brought him in for an in-house interview, really smart individual, understood a great deal of our playbook. Like you said, when Dave (Merritt) gets his hands on these guys and Steve (Spagnuolo) gets to work with him, it may take some time, but he’s a big corner, he’s smart, he’s athletic, he’s got size. And size and length you can’t coach. We just think he has a real shot. We feel real good about Trent (McDuffie) obviously, and with this kid, how he’s wired, how he kind of progressed over the spring season here with the evaluation process and meeting him in person, we felt good about him. The guys we took late are guys that it’s going to be really hard when you draft two corners. So as a GM, you know how this works, when you call agents, the first thing they do is look at who you drafted. So, when you draft two corners you might get a guy or two but it’s hard to get a bunch of guys when you just drafted two corners, and you have some guys coming back like (Rashad) Fenton and (L’Jarius) Sneed. We just felt like it was going to be hard, we had to throw more numbers at that position given the fact that we had just drafted two corners. It’s not so much getting outbid by teams for guys, but they might go to teams that didn’t draft any corners or only drafted one. We just thought it made sense to throw some additional numbers at it. And we like both players and we think both players we drafted late have a ton of upside.”
Q: How long had you been thinking about the UFA tender on Melvin Ingram being a legitimate strategy for your offseason? And do you have a hunch on which way he’s leaning?
VEACH: “That’s something that our cap guys, (Vice President of Football Operations) Brandt Tilis and (Vice President of Football Operations/Team Counsel) Chris Shea, do a great job of. It was an idea or concept we talked about I would say maybe a week or two before the draft, just as a possibility. Then we decided to do that. As far as where he stands, it’s always a little bit different and unique with these veteran guys. Melvin’s played a lot of football; he’s accomplished a lot and I don’t think he’s in a rush. And we knew that when the free agency period started that he wouldn’t be in a rush, that he would take his time. If it made sense for him, he would do something. We’ve been in contact with his agent. If there was something that made sense for us, we would definitely want him back. I think what this UFA tender does is it allows us the ability to communicate and not have either him or his agent do something without us being in the mix. We don’t know where this is going to go. I can say that we would love to have him back and it would make sense for us, but regardless, it at least allows us the chance to have dialogue with them before they do anything, if they decide to do something somewhere else.”
Q: Do you see Darian Kinnard factoring in this year at RT?
VEACH: “Yeah, I think we do and that was our plan when we drafted him. There has been a lot of talk whether he is a guard or a tackle. I think we feel confident that he can play guard, but when you’re talking about a guy who has logged a ton of starts at right tackle, there is some clean-up work he has to do. We have a great coaching staff and there is a great group of guys in that room that are really experienced. I think any time you can go and play right tackle successfully at an SEC level, more often than not, that will translate to the pro level. It will be a jump just like all of these colleges are when you’re moving to the NFL, so it’s not like it’s going to be easier. I think if there is one conference that gives you a sense of hope and encouragement it’s there. If you can line up at right tackle, we all saw that Georgia defensive line last year, if you can line up and play against that caliber, you’re certainly going to have a shot. It might be rough at the beginning, but I think he’s athletic enough and long enough. We love his length. Orlando Brown, people thought he wasn’t athletic enough to play tackle but when you have size, length and you’re wired the right way, you put those guys around the right coaching, I think they can become very successful. That’s kind of where we are going with Darian.”
Q: Would you say that it’s still a work in progress as it relates to adding pieces along the defensive line?
VEACH: “I think it’s more of how free agency evolves and the draft evolves, but it’s on the same narrative that we don’t value corners high. Well, we do, it just doesn’t work out sometimes. Sometimes we are picking late, or we don’t have money in free agency, or a few guys that other people like come off our board for either character or mental and then the other guys are gone. I think it was very similar with the d-line. I remember going through my final board review with Clark (Hunt). I told him the one position that this draft was very lean in was the interior defensive line. You had some shots there early in the middle, but it wasn’t like these corners, linebackers and receivers late. I think from a numbers standpoint it didn’t add up for us. When we were picking, there were some defensive linemen on the board, but whether it was corner or defensive end or safety, we just had higher grades on those guys. It was really just a quantity thing. I think we’re always going to look. Certainly, my track record shows we’ll always dump resources at the front, d-end, DT, we’re always looking at that. We actually talked about that when we took the (Taylor) Stallworth kid right before the draft started, this interior defensive line, there’s not a ton of numbers here. We do like the numbers at d-end, and we are going to try and take a shot at a corner early but there is a good shot we might get shut out here. I think it’s just from a sheer volume standpoint.”
Q: Beyond Melvin Ingram, do you think you still have the numbers, the cap space to add to the defensive line?
VEACH: “We’ll be smart. We’ve approached this offseason with a plan and we’ve tried to remain smart in regard to thinking about the next few years. We would love to have Melvin back and I think we’re in position to do something along those lines. We’re also, hopefully we’ll pick up the Orlando Brown talk and depending on how that goes and how that’s structured, it may allow for us to do something else or something that we’re not thinking of at this point. I think we are in a position to do something small and if it makes sense, we would do it. I think in the next few weeks here the Orlando Brown contract stuff will pick up and how that turns out may guide us in another direction in regards to what we can add before the season. It’s still a long offseason and like I said, when you have these drafts and all these players added, you’re going to have some counter moves and teams will start cutting players. They may have added a player or two at a position they weren’t thinking of, now suddenly they have a veteran there they can move on from or maybe they’ll listen to you. I think once you get through these rookie minicamps and these OTAs, talk will start to pick up again and some teams may call about certain players. I think the good thing for us is we have some flexibility here. We aren’t like ‘oh we can’t do anything, we’re stuck.’ We have picks next year, we have some money now and depending on how Orlando plays out we may have some additional resources depending on how all that is laid out. We always strive to have some flexibility and do what’s best for the team and we’re not going to make a move just to make a move. We’ve shown enough discipline over the years, I know we’re aggressive, but we’ve shown that we can be disciplined and let things play out. More than anything, as long as you have flexibility going into the season, I think you’re in a really good position. We’ll certainly take calls and listen and see what is out there.”
Q: What is the excitement level for next year with the draft in KC? With that said, is there a conscious effort to hold onto picks since it is here next year?
VEACH: “We’re extremely excited about the draft here next year. It was Clark’s idea, he mentioned that maybe we should look into getting a room over at Union Station and making that our make-shift draft room so we can be there and experience what we believe is going to be a tremendous event. The only thing that Clark told me was ‘you can’t trade next year’s one (first-round pick), we’ve gotta have a one (laughing).’ Other than that, he lets me do what I want to do. He joked a few times before the draft that we have to have a one next year so I went in with that mindset that I couldn’t move the one. Now I did remind him that Vegas isn’t using a one or a two, so I had to at least throw that line out there that it’s just been done this year. I think where we are and with what we did this offseason, taking a step back, knowing that we have a lot of good players and high-priced players on this team, knowing that our staff does a really good job of evaluating talent, our coaching staff does a really good job of developing talent, when you can have that amount of picks and really put together a solid plan and stick to it, we’re going to turn out some good players here. We’re going to be looking forward to using all of those picks next year – the one, the two, the two threes and two fours. Hopefully we add another great class like we did last year and this year.”