In early April, the Kansas City Chiefs finally approached the catcher position, agreeing to bring in former New York Giants catcher Richie James on a one-year deal.
The 27-year-old former seventh-round pick (2018) had over 500 yards in 2022, including 378 yards from Weeks 11-17, which was good for 54 yards per game. James also served the Giants as a punt returner.
In late April Chiefs general manager Brett Veach spoke to local media about James’ advantage.
“Always loved [James]. I think he’s a versatile guy,” Veach admitted, adding that he expects the 5-foot-9 speedster to contribute as a punt returner. “A few years ago, there was a closing period of transactions when he was at the [San Francisco 49ers]… I think we actually tried to trade for him. One of those, you know, waiver wire deletion agreements.
Although James didn’t end up in Kansas City then, he is here now. So let’s get to know him a little better. To do this, we sent a few questions to Ed Valentine of our sister site SBNation Big Blue View.
1 – How would you sum up James’ year with the Giants?
VALENTINE: James took full advantage of an opportunity that came his way. It was obvious from the OTAs, when James was getting a ton of reps while Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golladay weren’t training, that there was a chance he could be a factor. If you look at his 2022 output, he started off strong, sort of faded into the background mid-year, then reemerged as a key contributor over time. He made some big plays for the Giants late in the year. Daniel Jones trusted him to be where he was meant to be.
With the exception of one game where he fumbled two punts, he also did a good job returning punts. Not dynamic, but sufficient.
All in all, 2022 has been a much better year for James than the Giants could have expected.
2 – What do Giants fans think about the team not retaining him?
VALENTINE: I think opinions are probably divided. It is understood the Giants are bringing Wan’Dale Robinson back and giving Sterling Shepard another opportunity. In addition, the draft is filled with small fish slot type receivers, which is James. Still, he was productive and you hate to see productive players go out. He took a lot of snaps and caught a lot of balls that Giants fans thought would go to Toney and Robinson last year. My educated guess here is that 2022 could end up being James’ production ceiling.
3 – What are its strengths?
VALENTINE: He is quite friendly with the quarterback. He doesn’t drop a lot of passes. He is where he is supposed to be. He’s dependable on a day-to-day basis, something Toney never was in New York. He’s a great addition if you don’t expect him to be a main guy.
4 – What are its weaknesses?
VALENTINE: The biggest thing that surprised me last year was that I didn’t see dynamic playability. His yards after catching were a career low. Of course, maybe it’s because of the way the Giants used him. He was really just adequate punts.
5 – Anything to know about him off the field?
VALENTINE: Nothing special, other than the fact that he has cool hair. He seems like a pretty calm guy.
Pete’s take: James’ one-year contract with Kansas City is of the ‘veterans’ salary benefit’ type, which means $1.1 million if he makes the club and $552,000 in dead money if he doesn’t. . This puts him in a slightly favorable position to make the team.
That said, the Chiefs are not committing such to James where undeniable talent couldn’t get him out. Kansas City’s top four receivers — Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore and rookie Rashee Rice — can already be listed in the last 53. Considering his 2023 dead money would be $1.4 million if released, Justin Watson is a pretty good bet. to make the list – and he has the confidence of the quarterback.
For supporters of John or Justyn Ross, Jerrion Ealy or Ihmir Smith-Marsette – to name a few – their place would be have come at the expense of James’ $500,000 or a preseason injury. Here (in May), I tend to think that a team that has been chasing big plans for Toney will like James’ upside as a punt returner and his late-season production as a deep receiver on one of the popular lottery tickets.