Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas was suspended for the season opener for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy Saturday, part of a busy cut day that included a pair of trades and the movement of several players to injured lists.
The Chiefs sent backup running back Carlos Hyde to the Houston Texans for Martinas Rankin, a former third-round pick who will provide depth along the offensive line. They also traded defensive back Mark Fields to the Minnesota Vikings for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2021 draft.
Hyde was signed to a one-year deal and given every opportunity to make the team, but he failed to hold onto the No. 2 job. Rookie running back Darwin Thompson passed Hyde early in camp, and veteran Darrell Williams locked up the No. 3 spot with a strong preseason.
"We were really trying to identify a young tackle," Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. "A young kid who has a lot of upside who we can develop and we have under contractual control."
The decision to keep Thomas – despite his one-game suspension – may have saved cornerback-turned-wide receiver Tremon Smith's job for at least a week. The speedy Smith fulfills many of the same jobs as Thomas on special teams, including the crucial punt-coverage role.
"We always talk about when we come down to the final days here how critical special teams are," Veach said. "Tremon did a great job for us last year in the special teams game."
Defensive back Morris Claiborne joined Thomas on the reserve-suspended list while he misses the first four games of the regular season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Claiborne was signed midway through training camp and played considerably in the last couple of preseason games.
Veach acknowledged Saturday he will "certainly" be looking for help at cornerback among the other players that were cut. But Veach also said he's comfortable using his trio of safeties – Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill and Jordan Lucas – at cornerback if necessary.
Veach also said he made some calls about a trade for a cornerback but nothing materialized.
Defensive end Breeland Speaks and wide receiver Gehrig Dieter were placed on injured reserve as the Chiefs continued to trim their roster to the 53-man limit ahead of their opener in Jacksonville.
After a dismal rookie season, Speaks had begun to flourish in the Chiefs' new 4-3 defensive set before hurting his knee. Veach said that Speaks' ACL was intact but there were complications with an MCL surgery, ultimately ending the pass rusher's season.
"He's such a young guy that there's no way you want to kind of put a designated tag on him and rush him back out there," Veach said of the second-year pro. "The best way to make sure this thing will fully heal is to take care of this right now."
Dieter missed nearly all of training camp with a back injury.
The Chiefs continued to trim their roster to the 53-man limit ahead of their opener at Jacksonville on Sept. 8 by placing linebacker Darius Harris on the non-football injury list and waiving wide receiver Felton Davis and cornerback Michael Hunter with an injury designation.
Among the big names that were cut were offensive lineman Khalil McKenzie, a former draft pick who was trying to transition from defensive line to offensive line; cornerback D'Montre Wade, who impressed early in training camp but faded down the stretch; cornerback Herb Miller, who ran with the starting defense at some points during camp; and tight end Nick Keizer, who was competing for a backup job.
The Chiefs signed veteran quarterback Matt Moore after losing backup Chad Henne to a broken ankle in their penultimate preseason game. He was kept ahead of Kyle Shurmur and Chase Litton, a pair of developmental prospects who played the majority of the fourth preseason game.
"There were some guys we certainly tried to target and trade for and that didn't happen," Veach said. "The roster is set for now, but I still think there could be two or three moves that we make."