Dan Saleaumua came out of Arizona State as a defensive end and tackle. He was drafted in the 7th round with the 175th of the 1987 draft by the Detroit Lions and played there for two years. For the Detroit Lions he recorded four sacks over this time as a nose tackle. Detroit had doubled down on nose tackles that year and had decided to go with Jerry Ball as the starting nose tackle, releasing Dan Saleaumua from the team. The Chiefs ended up bringing Big Sal onto the team in 1989 (the same year Derrick Thomas was drafted). So could Jerrell Powe be our Big Sal?
So the third year is supposed to be the big jump for defensive tackles. In Big Sal's third year he started 8 games for the Kansas City Chiefs. Yet he was also in and out of plays with former rookie of the year, and two time pro bowler Bill Maas for all 16 games. Bill Maas started 10 games this year, and I believe that this was the year that they had switched to the 3-4 defense in the middle of the season (hence the weird math). Bill Maas continued to mentor Big Sal for 3 more seasons. Over Big Sal's career with the Chiefs he had a nose for the ball, and was consistently a disrupting force while on the field. As a result Big Sal did get a Pro Bowl nod in 1995, and still has the fumble recovery record standing at 18 recovered fumbles.
During his career, Big Sal stood at 6 foot 315 pounds... Jerrell Powe coming out of the University of Mississippi stands at 6 foot 2 inches and 335 pounds. Both eras of football dictate that these were pretty decent measurable for an ideal nose tackle. Jerrell Powe was picked with the 199th pick in the 6th round. This essentially would have been a late round 8th round pick in the 1987 draft. Coming out of college there are a few similarities that out there, but is there a mentor for Powe in the middle of our defensive line.
On top of having Bill Maas as a mentor, Big Sal had Bill Cowher as a Defensive Coordinator. A young feisty defensive coordinator at the time, that became a future Super Bowl winning coach. He was a pretty solid a mentor... if I don't say so myself. Jerrell Powe has Romeo Crennel as a defensive coordinator. Romeo Crennel has participated in winning 5 of 6 Super Bowls, 3 of which were while he was a defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. That is a pretty nice mentor of a coach. Yet who is to help Powe get the on field mentoring like Maas did for Big Sal?
Jerrell Powe came out of the University of Mississippi with 3 years of experience. Education requirements of the NCAA delayed his entrance into University of Mississippi as he got himself up to speed for his education in college. Standing at 6 foot 2 and weighing 335 pounds he of ideal build for a nose tackle. The last two years he was a full time starter at the University of Mississippi. In 2009, his junior year he was considered one of the top nose tackles playing in college football. Powe emerged as a star, earning second-team All-SEC accolades after posting 34 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and three sacks. Getting double teamed his senior year his stats were lackluster, and as a result his stock dropped dramatically in the NFL draft. Powe has the talent and size to become an elite force at nose tackle, but needs guidance in order to reach his full potential.
The three Chiefs that have been associated with the Chiefs over the past year are Ron Edwards, Shaun Smith, and Anthony Torbio. Torbio can be crossed off the list as he wasn't much of a presence on the field last year. Shaun Smith could be considered here, but he seems more of a fill in the line type of guy that gets in there for the nitty gritty action. Ron Edwards on the other hand appears to step up his game each year claiming his starting spot each year.
Ron Edwards appears to be someone in house that could be that mentor for Powe. Ron Edwards started his career with the Buffalo Bills under Gregg Williams and finished with Mike Mularkey. Neither of these coaches has been considered elite. Ron Edwards does have a year of experience under Romeo Crennel. This could prove to be essential to help Powe get up to speed with our play book. I wouldn't consider Edwards someone of the caliber of Maas to pass on a torch of dominate defensive line play.
Since it takes approximately 3 or so years for a player to get accustomed to the NFL let's take a look at free agents. Shaun Rogers was on the top of our list during the short period of free agency. Unfortunately we did not land Rodgers as he believes New Orleans has a better shot at a Super Bowl (lets prove him wrong). Ngata, and Soliai both have been franchised by their respective teams. I'd say that the price to get these guys is off the table for Mr. Pioli. Barry Cofield, Brandon Membane, Cullen Jenkins, Aubrayo Franklin, and Marcus Spears are all potential high end defensive tackle free agents. Barry Cofield and Cullen Jenkins both appear to be more geared towards a 4-3 defense than our 3-4. Marcus Spears at the same time could be considered too tall, and he seems more like a Shaun Smith type of player, which would not necessarily be a bad thing for our line.
So the top three possible young NT options that are free agents are Brandon Membane, Aubrayo Franklin, and Marcus Spears. Aubrayo appears to be the favorite on this list, and there has been talk of Brandon Membane. Since these guys have already been spoken about many times over I'll add a little bit about Marcus Spears.
In 2005, Marcus Spears was drafted with the 20th pick in the draft by the Dallas Cowboys. This 2005 team was coached by Bill Parcells, so he does have a background check in the Pioli connection. Marcus Spears has had knee problems over his career, but once the season was ready he had stepped up to the line battling the opposition. Bill Parcells, and Wade Phillips coached him at the LDE position. It is known that these coaches like a hefty line, and weighing in at 315, and a height of 6 foot 4 he has an ideal build for their system. At 6 foot 4 he is one inch taller than Ron Edwards, yet I believe he would an upgrade. Yet Edwards might again have something to say about that. If we aren't able to resign Shaun Smith, then Spears could be someone to help add competition to our defensive line.
So if Jerrell Powe is our Big Sal of the future we have a couple pieces of the puzzle together. Romeo Crennel and Anthony Pleasant are a pretty solid coaching group for this young defensive player. They should be able to coach his play up to the NFL. Powe appears to be a tactile learner that needs visual and physical ques to learn. I believe we would be best off if he learned Aubrayo Franklin's technique, and Ron Edward's heart that they both contribute to be starting NFL caliber NT's. This mentorship is one of the essential pieces of the puzzle in finding our Big Sal.