Players that have ties to members of the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff will be cut or their contracts will expire as the offseason rolls along. When these players enter the market, we’ll be taking quick looks prior to any signings, which would necessitate a full film review.
First on the docket for 2019 — defensive end Vinny Curry, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday.
Originally drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft by Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles, Curry, 30, is a 6-foot-3, 280-pound 4-3 rotational defensive end. He has 24.5 sacks and 70 quarterback hits to his name in his seven-year career, despite only starting 23 of the 96 games in which he’s played.
After starting all 16 games in 2017 with the Eagles — logging 47 pressures on 55 percent of the snaps and helping lead Philadelphia to the Super Bowl, they were forced to cut Curry due to a high cap hit and the need for funds for Nick Foles and other pieces of the defense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers scooped him up on a three-year, $19.5 million deal to play in their 4-3 under front. He logged only 24 pressures — his lowest since his rookie year — while nursing an ankle injury that limited him to 12 games.
The Buccaneers picked up Carl Nassib on waivers from the Browns, and Curry lost his starting spot during the ankle injury. With Tampa Bay switching to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles — and with Curry having no dead money in his final two years of the contract — his time with the Buccaneers came to an end after only one year.
So what does that mean for the Chiefs? General manager Brett Veach discussed both Dee Ford and Justin Houston in last week’s conference call — and the comments led me to believe that one of the two pass rushers will be on the way out in 2019.
A developing Breeland Speaks and a question mark in Tanoh Kpassagnon are left alongside whomever the Chiefs decide to keep, leaving a rotational EDGE defender as a high priority in free agency.
With Reid’s familiarity with Curry — and a likely cheap price tag coming off of a season where he lost his starting job — a deal makes some sense for Kansas City.
Where he helps
Curry doesn't have a ton of sacks to his name (season high of 9 sacks in '14, 24.5 for his career), but he does damage with his counter moves. Here he sets up the LT with a step to the outside and gets him to overset, then knifes through the gap between the OG and OT to get home. pic.twitter.com/cptCi4jMjW— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) February 12, 2019
While he’s not really a “sack-master,” Curry creates a ton of pressures, hits and hurries through interior moves. His ability to line up in a wide nine, as a 5-technique and even rotate in as a 3-technique give him versatility, and that translates to his rush plan.
He does well to set up tackles all game long going around the outside — or feeding off of other rushers doing so — and is able to sell his outside rush well off the snap. Two vertical steps cause the left tackle to set outside, and Curry is able to dip laterally on the third to squeeze between the tackle and the guard for the sack.
Curry generally plays with good pad level and strength. Good hands to get to the chest of the LT here, strong punch to knock him off balance, and good drive with leverage back to the QB. Awareness to disengage as the LG comes to help and dive toward the climbing QB for a sack. pic.twitter.com/0oEjWWKJdd— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) February 12, 2019
Curry also plays with good technique, keeping a low pad level and utilizing his strength to beat up on tired tackles late in the game. Reading the left tackle’s drop and getting into his chest with a strong punch knocks the blocker off balance before he can anchor against a bull rush. Curry’s awareness to disengage and peel off the tackle before the left guard can come and help allows him to dive toward the quarterback in the pocket as he climbs to avoid the backpedaling tackle.
While he’s not particularly bendy in his pass rush, Curry’s a heady pass rusher that can beat his man with a proper rush plan — especially when he’s balancing that plan with the other players he’s rotating in with.
Curry doesn't just succeed with interior moves. He flashes good hands and a quick first step to eliminate the OT's ability to block him on the edge. Here, he's able to get upfield before the OT can reach him, shed the block, and is clear of the OT when the ball is handed off. pic.twitter.com/FxtYpaq0Zb— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) February 12, 2019
However, that doesn’t mean that Curry can’t beat his man on the edge, as shown in the play above. He flashes a quick first step to beat the tackle off the edge and good hands to clear the reaching blocker.
He’s past the left tackle before the ball is handed off to the running back, making for an easy tackle for loss.
Curry excels in run D as well. On 3rd & 2, playing the SDE in a 4-3 Under front, Curry walks the TE to the RB in the backfield. He then drops a knee after the back cuts to the weakside, forming contain. When the RB tries to cut back around, he stands, sheds, and makes the tackle. pic.twitter.com/yOyljroHbn— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) February 12, 2019
Arguably Curry’s biggest benefit will come in his run defense from multiple spots on the line. His ability to play in different alignments along a 4-3 front and as a sub-package EDGE defender will be key to the flexibility Steve Spagnuolo loves — and that starts with an ability to stop the run at a high level.
The above play is the type of awareness a team can expect from Curry in the run game. The offense tries to block him with a tight end on third-and-short, and Curry is able to drive him well into the backfield with an explosive bull rush, redirecting the running back’s read as he receives the handoff.
As the back cuts to the weak side, Curry drops a knee to help seal the backside, attempting to keep contain. As the play continues and the back tries to find a gap on the strong side of the formation, Curry pops up, sheds the block and makes the tackle for no gain — forcing a punt.
The bottom line
Vinny Curry is exactly the type of guy the Chiefs should be looking for to help flesh out their new fronts under Spagnuolo. Not only does he offer versatility, he can also stop the run well and offers above average pass rush for a team that doesn’t need him to be the primary option or shoulder the full load throughout the season.
Curry is a strong locker room presence, great in the community and a great teacher to those around him.
Having Curry — alongside a new defensive coaching staff — in the room with players like Speaks and Kpassagnon can only help their game-day preparation and ability to transition into quality defensive players for this team.
With the Reid connection and a likely-cheap price tag, Curry seems like a low-risk, solid rotational piece.