Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed is having a great year at an opportune time.
His four-year, $3.9 million contract expires at the end of the 2023 season.
“I don’t think about that,” Sneed exclusively shared. “I’m just playing ball right now. That will take care of itself when the time comes.”
Though Sneed may not be focused on his contract right now, he’s proving that he will deserve a lucrative deal.
Having moved from the nickel corner to the outside with the emergence of Trent McDuffie at his former spot, Sneed routinely shadows the offense’s best wide receiver.
His latest victim was Tyreek Hill. The current Miami Dolphins and former Chiefs receiver leads the NFL in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, but Sneed helped limit him to eight catches for 62 yards.
“I followed him the whole game,” Sneed said.
In Week Five he was the main defender on Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson. Though he left late with a hamstring injury, Jefferson was held to three catches for 28 yards.
The previous week Sneed aligned across from last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, Garrett Wilson, on 24 of his 40 routes (60%) and was in press coverage on half of them. Sneed allowed just two receptions for 20 yards on six targets to the New York Jets receiver, according to Zebra Technologies
“Each and every week he’s going up against the top receiver, getting his hands on them, pressing them,” McDuffie said. “That dude is balling right now.”
McDuffie and Sneed are a major reason for the Chiefs’ defensive success this year. Perhaps the best defense of the Patrick Mahomes era, it ranks fourth in the NFL in total yards and second in points allowed.
With the two Pro Bowl-level corners locking down receivers, it allows defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to use defenders, who might otherwise have had to help in coverage, to get after the quarterback. He can unleash aggressive blitzes, something he favors and something he learned from former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
Spagnuolo also loves long, physical corners, and the last one of his to depart in free agency — Charvarius Ward — earned a three-year, $40.5 million deal ($13.5 million in average annual value or AAV) with the San Francisco 49ers.
The 6-1, 192-pound Sneed, a better player than the 6-1, 196-pound Ward, certainly will earn more than that.
Currently, cornerbacks Jaire Alexander of the Green Bay Packers and Denzel Ward of the Cleveland Browns are the only ones with an AAV of at least $20 million at $21 million and $20.5 million, respectively.
Sneed likely won’t receive that much, but he’s only 26, and each offseason features richer deals than the last.
Halfway through this season, Sneed is coming off one of his best performances.
The only Chiefs defensive back who was on the team when Hill was with the Chiefs, Sneed said how excited he was to go against his former teammate.
Spagnuolo noted that attitude is typical of Sneed, who embraces the challenge of facing the No. 1 wide receiver each week, and that kind of confidence spreads to the rest of the defense.
“When you have a guy like that,” Spagnuolo said, “the other 10 guys rally around him.”
Sneed is adept at press coverage, a staple of Spagnuolo’s scheme, but if Sneed does have a weakness, it’s committing too many penalties.
Wary of his physical play, opposing teams are likely telling the officials to look out for him.
“They got my name down,” he said. “I’m (an) aggressive corner and I’m going to keep being aggressive. They don’t like it.”
That overzealousness resulted in one of his worst games during the Week Eight loss to the Denver Broncos when he committed four penalties (two pass interference and two holding) in the second half.
But Sneed said he used that as motivation and bounced back with his impressive showing against Hill and the Dolphins.
For the time being, performance serves as a driving force — rather than future earning potential.
“That’s gonna come,” he said.