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The Kansas City Chiefs secondary is very cheap and very good

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NFL: AFC Divisional-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

(Update: It looks like the Chiefs are signing Eric Berry so some of this will be a little out of date)

Here we are in part two of the seven part series where we’ll compare the Chiefs roster against others in the NFL. This time around we’ll look at the Chiefs defensive backs.

For those of you who missed the first article regarding the linebackers it may help to explain where the data for these articles originated.

The Data

The player stats are from Pro Football Reference, the roster data came from each team’s NFL.com site, the roster data was validated with depth charts from Ourlads (seriously they saved my life), and the cap data was obtained from Over the Cap.

Since the Chiefs defense operates primarily under a 3-4 scheme, only 3-4 defenses were taken into account while creating the data. The following teams employed a 3-4 defense in 2016: Arizona, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Tennessee, and Washington.

I am aware that I could have used all NFL defenses for the defensive backs, but due to the data I had already built for the linebackers and defensive line it was most time efficient for me to stick with the 3-4 defenses.

Defensive Backs

For starters we’ll take a look at some generic information comparing the Chiefs secondary to the rest of the 3-4 defenses in the NFL.

The Chiefs currently have 11 defensive backs under contract going into 2017. This is fairly average compared to the rest of the 3-4 defenses in the NFL.

Below is a table that contains each of the Chiefs defensive backs and their 2017 cap hit. (Please note some of the players who make less than $540,000 may not count against the Chiefs total cap at this point)

Defensive Back 2017 Cap Amounts

Player Position Cap Amount
Player Position Cap Amount
Ron Parker FS $5,600,000
Marcus Peters CB $2,613,862
Phillip Gaines CB $855,778
Steven Nelson CB $773,987
Eric Murray FS $698,951
Kenneth Acker CB $690,000
Terrance Mitchell CB $690,000
DJ White CB $588,253
Vernon Harris CB $465,000
Julian Wilson CB $465,000
Jimmy Hall SS $465,000

Considering what Marcus Peters brings to the table, John Dorsey is a damn thief in regards to how much the Chiefs are paying Peters.

Now let’s compare the Chiefs total money currently invested in the secondary with the rest of the 3-4 defenses in the NFL.

For a team that had such great production from their defensive backs in 2016, it is shocking to see the Chiefs have so little money tied into their secondary. Compared to the rest of the 3-4 defenses, the Chiefs spend the least amount of money on their defensive backs. Maybe there’s a little room for Berry’s contract?

Now lets divide the cost of the teams defensive back contracts with each teams cap money spent. This should give us an idea of what percentage of the budget each team allocates towards their secondary.

Wow .... The Chiefs only spend about eight percent of their cap space on defensive backs. On the other hand, the Broncos spend almost 30 percent of their cap space on defensive backs.

When it comes handling secondary players’ contracts Dorsey appears to be thriftier than the shoppers on Extreme Couponing.

Now that we’ve taken a look at some general information let’s take a look at the CB, FS, and SS positions in a little more detail.

CB - Age

The Chiefs cornerbacks currently under contract are: Kenneth Acker, Phillip Gaines, Vernon Harris, Terrance Mitchell, Steven Nelson, Marcus Peters, DJ White, and Julian Wilson (reserve / futures contract).

I went and checked the age of the Chiefs cornerbacks and compared them to the rest of the 3-4 defenses in the NFL.

The Chiefs have the youngest average cornerbacks out of any 3-4 defense in the NFL. The Chiefs average CB age is 24. That is incredible given their success over the past two seasons.

CB - Cost Efficiency

I considered three things to observe cost efficiency for the cornerback positions: 2017 cap hits, 2016 interceptions, and 2016 pass deflections. Interceptions and pass deflections don’t entirely define a CBs play, but they can offer a decent idea of how well a CB is playing.

Keep in mind the Steelers, Texans, Colts, and Jets each have CBs who started for them in 2016 but are free agents. This means their numbers may be slightly better than they actually are in the figures below.

We’ll start by looking at 2017 cap cost per 2016 interceptions for each 3-4 team.

The Chiefs pay a ridiculously low amount of money (roughly $1.02 million/interception) for the capability of their cornerbacks intercepting the football. They are the most cost efficient team in terms of interceptions. Thank you, Marcus Peters.

Now let’s apply the same concept to pass deflections.

The Chiefs cornerbacks under contract in 2017 had 52 pass deflections in 2016. This helped them be the most cost efficient team in terms of pass deflections going into 2017.

Overall, I think it’s fair to say Dorsey has done an amazing job with the Chiefs secondary and their contracts. I don’t have all the numbers on me, but I would argue Dorsey has one of, if not the most cost efficient secondary in the entire NFL.

FS - Age

The Chiefs currently have two free safeties on their roster: Eric Murray and Ron Parker. Some may want to consider Eric Murray as a strong safety, but all the roster information I found had him listed as a free safety. The Chiefs rotate their safeties anyway.

In terms of average free safety age the Chiefs fall in the middle of the pack for 3-4 defenses in the NFL.

FS - Cost Efficiency

I took three items into account when trying to find how cost effective the Chiefs free safety contracts are. The three items are pass deflections, interceptions, and passing plays allowed that were greater than 30 yards.

The idea is one of a free safeties main jobs is to prohibit deep passes. Obviously not all long passing plays are solely the fault of the FS, but it’s still a fair measure since free safeties are often roaming the backfield to prevent long pass plays.

We’ll start with interceptions and we’ll use the same method as we did with the CBs above.

The Chiefs are in the middle of the pack in terms of free safety interception cost efficiency.

Also to note is the Bears, Colts, and Titans were excluded from the graph because they have no free safeties under contract in 2017 who recorded an interception in 2016; can’t divide by zero and such...

Now let’s look at pass deflections.

The Chiefs free safeties are in the middle of the pack in terms of pass deflection cost efficiency. It looks as though Ron Parker is doing a decent job holding up his side of the bargain.

Lastly we need to look at the passing plays allowed which were greater than 30 yards.

This graph is similar to the one from the linebackers article. The red line represents the idea that teams who spend more money on free safeties should allow fewer big passing plays.

Teams who are on or near the red line are par for the course. Teams who are below the red line exceed expectations, while teams above the red line are below expectations.

The Chiefs are on the red line so they are par for the course in terms of long passing plays as they relate to the 2017 contract costs of their free safeties.

Overall the Chiefs free safeties, Ron Parker specifically, are doing a solid job. I have no complaints.

SS

The Chiefs currently only have one player on their roster who is listed as a strong safety in the depth chart information I found and he is named Jimmy Hall. Hall has never recorded a tackle, or other stat in the NFL. He is a second year player I don’t remember hearing any news about the Chiefs acquiring.

I found it pointless to compare the Chiefs strong safeties to the rest of the 3-4 defensive teams because the Chiefs data would be completely off kilter.

If the Chiefs are unable to sign Eric Berry and/or Daniel Sorensen (restricted free agent) then they could have some serious problems at the position. Berry and Sorensen played very well in 2016, and they played a huge role in the Chiefs defense allowing very few run plays greater than 15 yards.

In fact, out of the 3-4 NFL defenses, the Chiefs allowed the fewest runs of 15 or more yards.

Signing Berry (and Sorensen) would help the Chiefs to continue this path of success going forward... but it’s going to cost them.

Potential Paths

I believe Dorsey has a number of potential paths he could take in regards to the Chiefs defensive backfield personnel. Let’s start with some facts before we touch on the paths.

  • Dorsey hasn’t invested a lot of money in the Chiefs secondary
  • Dorsey has accumulated great, cheap talent in the Chiefs secondary thus far

From these points I think there are two rational statements that could be made:

  1. Dorsey doesn’t like to spend money on his defensive backs, so he won’t break the bank for Eric Berry.
  2. Since the Chiefs secondary is so cheap, Dorsey may be willing to invest more heavily in his defensive backs.

Path #1 - Dorsey hates spending money on DBs

If Dorsey doesn’t want to spend money on Eric Berry he would bring back Sorensen and look to add a strong safety through the draft or sign an under the radar type of strong safety.

Path #2 - Dorsey wants to shell out some cash on the Chiefs secondary

Path number two actually has a fork

Path 2A - Eric Berry accepts Dorsey’s final offer
Path 2B - Eric Berry does not accept Dorsey’s final offer

If the following happens....

I don’t see Dorsey making any more free agency moves in regards to the Chiefs secondary (except for bringing Sorensen back.)

If Berry does not agree to a deal with the Chiefs, then Dorsey may be interested in adding a potential high dollar player in the secondary.

Potential Top Tier Free Agent DBs

Below is a list of potential top tier free agent DBs Dorsey may be interested in if the Eric Berry deal falls through. Note that each of these players could be tagged or signed by their current team, so at this point it’s total speculation.

Potential Top Tier Free Agent DBs

Name Pos Age Tackles INTs PDs
Name Pos Age Tackles INTs PDs
Johnathan Cyprien SS 26 96 0 4
Tony Jefferson SS 25 78 0 5
AJ Bouye CB 26 48 1 16
Trumaine Johnson CB 27 47 1 11
Logan Ryan CB 26 74 2 11

Each of these players should cost less than what Eric Berry is asking. If the Berry deal falls through I don’t see why Dorsey wouldn’t be interested in at least looking into a few top tier secondary players in free agency.

Conclusion

We covered a lot of information, so here’s a list to recap.

  1. The Chiefs don’t have much money invested in their secondary
  2. Dorsey has absolutely been kicking ass with the cornerback position
  3. Ron Parker is doing a solid job given his price tag and the Chiefs should feel comfortable at the free safety position in 2017
  4. The strong safety position will be a glaring question mark until the Eric Berry contract situation is figured out (free safety, strong safety ... whatever you want to call them)
  5. If Berry doesn’t sign, the Chiefs may have money burning holes in their pockets and Dorsey may invest in a top tier defensive back
  6. Don’t forget about Daniel Sorensen - he’s a restricted free agent that will likely be back.

Up next is the Chiefs defensive line which will conclude the roster analysis for the defensive side of the ball.