KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rarely are teams forced to make wholesale roster changes in the middle of the season, and those that do usually aren’t coming off arguably their best performance in weeks.
The Kansas City Chiefs did precisely that this week.
Their trade of running back Knile Davis to the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday for a conditional late-round draft pick started a wave of roster transactions. They also placed defensive end Allen Bailey and linebacker Justin March on injured reserve and waived defensive lineman Nick Williams.
As a result, four newcomers were on the 53-man roster for practice Wednesday.
Defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches and linebacker Ramik Wilson were drafted by Kansas City, and cornerback Terrance Mitchell has been with them on the practice squad. The Chiefs also signed defensive end Kendall Reyes, who has been with the Chargers and Redskins the past few years.
That’s a lot of people to get up to speed before Sunday’s game against New Orleans.
“I’d just like to be able to help however I can,” Reyes said.
In truth, none of the newcomers figures to be taking on much load this weekend. Their additions are primarily for depth, moves designed to help the Chiefs in the event of another injury.
The trade of Davis started the domino effect, though. The decision to cut ties with a former third-round pick gave the Chiefs roster flexibility and some modest salary cap savings, and relieved some of the pressure that was building at running back with three others already on the roster.
“It gives him an opportunity during the prime of his career here an opportunity to play,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Some of the stuff we’re doing here probably isn’t his best stuff. Every time he played he got a hundred yards, it seemed like, but we did a lot of downhill stuff at the time.
“He’s very good at that,” Reid said. “We’re just doing different stuff now.”
The offense doesn’t figure to change much without Davis, who had been active this season primarily because of his ability as a kick returner. But things could change much more on defense.
Bailey was a big part of the rotation on the defensive line along with Williams, Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard. But he tore his right pectoral muscle in last Sunday’s impressive win in Oakland , and will have surgery Monday that will sideline him for the rest of the season.
Now, rookie Chris Jones will join Reyes in trying to soak up some of the snaps.
“Losing him, it’s a huge impact. He’s a huge part of our defense,” Jones said. “He’s a veteran guy that I’ve been looking after. It’s just a tough loss.”
The loss of March to a broken left hand is doubly painful considering he was already replacing Josh Mauga, who is out for the season. And his replacements are largely untested or new to the Chiefs: Wilson has rarely played, Sam Barrington has been hobbled since joining the team earlier this season and Sio Moore has been working mostly outside since signing a couple weeks ago.
Reid said it essentially will be an open competition to decide who starts alongside Derrick Johnson on Sunday, though he indicated Wilson has the best grasp of the system.
“We’ve got a group of guys,” he added. “We’ll just let them go at it and give them a shot.”
There is also some uncertainty in the defensive backfield with Phillip Gaines dealing with a knee injury. He didn’t practice Wednesday, though the Chiefs are hopeful he will work out later in the week.
Still, that’s hardly how they want to go into a game against Drew Brees and the Saints, who are averaging more than 400 yards of offense and 31 points per game.
“It’s a big task,” Jones said, “but we’ll be up to it.”
NOTES: LB Justin Houston (left knee surgery) returned to practice for the first time since having surgery in February. There is still no timetable or his return to games. “We’ll just see how much he can get done,” Reid said. … Gaines underwent an MRI exam and Dr. James Andrew, who repaired his ACL last year, examined the results. But the Chiefs are still listing him as day to day.