KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a jubilant locker room deep within Arrowhead Stadium, a young man impeccably dressed who looked as if he’d stepped out of a college classroom greeted Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins with a brilliant smile and an enthusiastic high-five.
Watkins had just had another standout performance in another Chiefs win, and Brett Veach no doubt felt a bit of satisfaction that his much-panned free-agent acquisition was paying such dividends.
Then again, just about everything the Chiefs general manager does these days turns out all right.
His draft picks are thriving. His free-agent pickups have worked out brilliantly. And his myriad moves to cultivate depth and competition throughout the roster have allowed the Chiefs to not only deal with significant injuries but also race to an 8-1 start and take a stranglehold on the AFC West.
“Brett is very, very thorough and always prepared for whatever the scenario is, whether it’s the draft or free agency or just working the roster on a week-to-week basis,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said recently. “He and Andy (Reid) work well together and that’s an important part of the equation.”
Indeed, when Reid was hired as the Chiefs coach it was with the understanding that he would no longer handle the GM duties that bogged him down in Philadelphia. So, Hunt hired John Dorsey away from the Packers front office, and one of his top lieutenants was one of Reid’s protÃ©gÃ©s from Philly.
Veach had joined him there when he was not yet 30, the former Delaware standout taking an entry level job on Reid’s staff. But he quickly impressed everyone in the organization with his detail, work ethic and acumen, and he rose through the ranks before joining the front office in Kansas City.
When the decision came last summer to part with Dorsey, Veach was a somewhat unexpected choice.
But despite taking the reins on the eve of training camp, he nevertheless put his fingerprints on a roster that would win the division title. He traded for former first-round draft pick Cam Ervin, who now starts on the offensive line, and for Reggie Ragland, who now starts at linebacker.
He made a series of moves deeper down the depth chart, too, seemingly never taking a break.
Veach continued to make aggressive roster moves after the season, dealing away quarterback Alex Smith for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a draft pick and turning the job over to Patrick Mahomes.
The moves have paid off in every way possible: Mahomes is off to a record-setting start to his career, the Chiefs created some much-needed salary cap space, Fuller has been their best cornerback and the third-round pick they acquired has turned into more help for their rebuilt defense.
Yes, even Veach’s draft picks have paid off.
He was without a first-round selection in April because of the trade to select Mahomes last year, but he nevertheless moved adroitly around the draft board to acquire players he liked.
Second-round pick Breeland Speaks has started at outside linebacker with Justin Houston hurt, and defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and linebacker Dorian O’Daniel have been regulars as third-round picks. Safety Armani Watts was pushing for a starting job before landing on injured reserve earlier this year and sixth-round pick Tremon Smith has been a special teams standout.
“Going back to last year,” Hunt said, “I was impressed with the short amount of time that he had to make some changes going into the 2017 season that ultimately really had an impact. That wasn’t something I was expecting. And Brett’s now had a full offseason, a draft and free agency, and he’s made a lot of moves, and I think we’re seeing the fruit of his labor this year.”
It’s not just the moves Veach has made, either. He’s also shown patience to stand pat when nothing suits his liking, such as he did when the trade deadline passed without a peep.
“He’s not going to do something just to do it to appease. He’s going to do what’s best for the Chiefs and he’s really good about that,” Reid said. “That’s just where he’s at.”
So far his best has been nearly perfect.
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