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Making decisions on the Chiefs’ unrestricted free agents (Part 2)

The Chiefs have 18 players that are hitting the free agent market this offseason. Part 2 of this two-part series covers the defense.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

With free agency starting in roughly a month, the Kansas City Chiefs’ decision-makers are currently evaluating how they should attack this period of the offseason. I looked at every unrestricted free agent from the 2019 Chiefs and decided whether the team should attempt to re-sign them or not.

Part 2 covers unrestricted free agents on the defensive side of the football (we covered the offense in Part 1, posted on Tuesday):

Chris Jones

Jones has earned a big contract. It didn’t seem possible that he could outperform his 15.5 sack season in 2018, but his contributions in the Super Bowl may have added to his value. It’s always tougher to cut ties with a homegrown, drafted player like Jones too. They need to franchise tag him no matter what — and I think they find a way to keep Jones in Kansas City for the foreseeable future with clever maneuvering of their cap space.

Jones has been pretty adamant about the decision coming down to his own preference — and not necessarily what his agents think is best.

Verdict: Franchise tag, sign to long-term deal

NFL: DEC 29 Chargers at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Mike Pennel

The afterthought, veteran defensive tackle that signed with the Chiefs after Week 7 turned out to be an unsung hero of the championship. Pennel became a stout run defender and likely earned himself a multi-year contract for that specific role.

The contract will likely come from elsewhere — unless Chris Jones does go to another team this offseason. Young interior defensive linemen like Derrick Nnadi and Khalen Saunders make this choice easier.

Verdict: Let him walk

Xavier Williams

Similar to Pennel, Williams will be pushed out due to the young personnel at his position. It’s an even simpler decision when you realize Williams didn’t play in a single game after Week 5 because of injury.

Verdict: Let him walk

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Emmanuel Ogbah

I don’t think the Chiefs should overthink this one. Pass rush is one of the most important positions for an NFL team — and Ogbah looked like their best one for an extended period of 2019. He will demand more than the $1.3 million he was paid in 2019, but he may be worth it at age 27 in 2020. The pass rush depth would be phenomenal if the group is healthy.

Verdict: Re-sign to two-year deal

Reggie Ragland

It was really fun to see Ragland go from inactive at the beginning of the regular season to a big part of the run defense. He’s continually made flashy plays in his Chiefs career — but not at a consistent enough level to re-sign.

Verdict: Let him walk

Darron Lee

This one shouldn’t be thought about twice. The linebacker who was traded for in the 2019 offseason never saw more than 18% of the defensive snaps in any game after Week 6.

Verdict: Let him walk

Bashaud Breeland

Breeland was a legitimate starting boundary cornerback in 2019. He — along with the rest of the defense — seemed to get better as the season grew. His best performances were toward the end of the year, including Super Bowl LIV where he had two tackles for loss, a pass defended and an interception.

It would be perfect if Breeland was willing to sign another one-year prove-it deal — but he won’t wait another season to cash in. Most likely, Breeland will earn a healthy, three-year deal from another NFL team — and the Chiefs will seek the next veteran cornerback to sign short-term for 2020.

Verdict: Re-sign if reasonable, let him walk if price is too steep

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Kendall Fuller

It’s crazy to think about re-signing Fuller two or three months ago. His failure as the starting slot cornerback became an opportunity for him to earn back his value at a different position. His play at safety was important the entire postseason — especially because of the late-season injury to starting safety Juan Thornhill. Making the game-sealing interception in the Super Bowl is a pretty good way to cap it all off.

I believe we have yet to see 25-year old Fuller play at his best as an NFL player. His versatility makes him a valuable asset — and I believe he has a chance to replace Dan Sorensen as the third safety in nickel packages.

Verdict: Re-sign as a safety

Morris Claiborne & Jordan Lucas

Not much to say about Claiborne. The 30-year-old didn’t see action in 2019 past Week 13. Lucas had become a solid special teamer and reserve safety — but that role can be replenished easily in the draft.

Verdict: Let them walk

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