Author's note: Thank you to everyone who read my post about the free agents on offense. And I'd like to give a big thanks to AP for putting it on the main page. As promised, here is part two.
I think the free agents on the defensive side are a little more difficult to predict. However, I still do not think many of them are going to be highly sought in free agency. With a reduced cap, many teams badly over what a normal cap would be, and many teams having to setting their quarterback situation, this free agency is going to be hell on solid veteran role players. I could be wrong, but I think that most of the Chiefs' defensive free agents are hitting free agency at the worst possible time for their situations. I will again predict that I think many players across the league will be playing for close to the veteran minimum.
DE Alex Okafor: He was one of the first free agents signed after Steve Spagnuolo became defensive coordinator. He has eight sacks in 21 games over two seasons. The Chiefs convinced him to take a pay cut last offseason, which implied that they probably were about to cut him if he had refused.
Prediction: Okafor and the Chiefs are going to move on from each other. Pay cuts usually create some hard feelings. Even if he has to take a veteran minimum deal, he's going to take it somewhere other than Kansas City.
S Daniel Sorensen: Ah, "Dirty Dan." He has gone from probably Arrowhead Pride's least favorite Chief under Bob Sutton to a Mike Maslowski or Boomer Grigsby-level favorite under Spagnuolo. The forced fumble on the kickoff against Houston will probably forever be a top-15 Chiefs moment for me. In a previous generation, Sorensen would be that guy that a team with a new coach would want to bring in for intangibles and culture building. Usually with some generic coach speak such as, "This guy's a football player." The Chiefs do need to consider what he brings to the field. Even with a ton of improvement the last two years, Sorensen is very prone to the highest highs and lowest lows when you watch all of his plays. Other than the elite players, safeties have not done very well the last couple of years in free agency. I am not sure how much interest there would be in a 30-year-old Sorensen, even in a normal year with more money available.
Prediction: Sorensen will not generate substantial interest from other teams. A few weeks into free agency, he will sign for a veteran cap benefit contract, such as the one the Chiefs used to bring back Anthony Sherman and Demarcus Robinson for 2020.
CB Bashaud Breeland: This is one in which I really have no idea how it's going to go. Breeland had a Super Bowl to forget but has overall played well in Kansas City. He has probably had the worst luck of any player ever in free agency. He had an offer taken off the table after injuring his foot on vacation. He played well and hit free agency with a failed drug test suspension looming. Now, he plays well again and enters free agency at a time that probably $640 million in cap space league-wide is disappearing. He probably benefits from this year's cornerback draft class being considered well below average. On the other hand, teams have been more wary about signing away middle-tier corners the last couple of years after a large number of busts. I'm not sure how many teams are going to be interested in a 29-year-old corner who has a reputation for coverage penalties, recently suffered a concussion and is probably facing a year-long suspension if he ever has another off-the-field incident. I think the Chiefs prioritizing Deandre Baker might be a sign that they would prefer to move on from Breeland.
Prediction: Breeland will be disappointed by free agency again. I think he will probably still be available after the draft. At that point, he will either return to Kansas City or sign somewhere else for less money than he wants and probably less than he deserves.
LB Damien Wilson: I'm actually a fan of Damien Wilson. I like guys who know their role and do their job. The Chiefs did not make a huge investment in him, and I think they've probably gotten their money's worth. If you want to know what the Chiefs really think of Willie Gay, watch what they do with Wilson. If they are relatively aggressive bringing him back, that probably means Gay did not show the improvement they were hoping for.
Prediction: The Chiefs will not make Damien Wilson a priority. If he is still available after the draft, they might bring him back on a very cheap deal.
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon: Last postseason, it finally looked like Kpassagnon had it. He filled in well after Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah went down. He had two sacks in the AFC championship game against the Titans, and he made a big time play in coverage against San Francisco. This season, he went back to looking like a replacement-level player. I would probably say Mike Danna outplayed him.
Prediction: I don't know how much money he will make, but some other team will be intrigued by Kpassagnon's physical makeup and be very aggressive in recruiting him. Even if the money is similar, Kpassagnon might think a new start is a better situation. The Chiefs should not bring him back unless it's for close to the absolute minimum.
DT Mike Pennel: I think it's fair to say Pennel made more of an impact in 2019 than he did in 2020, even if his snap count stayed pretty close to the same. He was a rotational player with usage varying by the opponent. I guess whether or not they make him a priority will be a good sign for what they really think about Khalen Saunders. Did the lack of offseason and then the Week 1 injury just put Saunders' development behind? Or are they just done with him? One other thing to watch. The Chiefs will likely lose Derrick Nnadi to free agency after next season. It might be a good idea to use a day-three pick on a defensive tackle who profiles as a run-stopper, which would probably squeeze Pennel out of a roster spot.
Prediction: I don't think the Chiefs will make Pennel a priority, but they will probably keep his number handy in case he's available as an injury replacement. It's very possible that a 30-year-old rotational defensive tackle with multiple drug suspensions will be available if the Chiefs need him in season.
CB Antonio Hamilton: Yawn. It's time to remember back 11 months ago when we were so desperate for any Chiefs news that we were all happy the Chiefs signed Hamilton as their first addition of free agency. He looked pretty overmatched any time he saw action on defense. He was signed for special teams value. Anyone who played primarily on special teams for this team probably doesn't have a ton to brag about. Given the number of times they called up defensive Chris Lammons from the practice squad to play on special teams, I think it would probably make more sense to go with the cheaper player in Lammons over Hamilton.
Prediction: Like Pennel, Hamilton is probably not getting a contract in the early days of free agency. The Chiefs probably will not re-sign him, but they might bring him back if he's available as an injury replacement. The Chiefs can keep Lammons for the role Hamilton held.
DE Taco Charlton: As a Fort Worth resident who received regular coverage of everything that went wrong with Charlton and the Cowboys, I was very surprised by how well it was going with the Chiefs. I still don't think he's drumming up much interest coming off an injury. I think whether or not he's expected to be healthy will decide if he's a Chief in 2021. Fractured ankle can mean a wide range of things from a moderate hairline crack to a horrific mess that can never be perfectly put back together. Given how important a first step burst is for an edge rusher, it's not a slam dunk that it heals in a way where he can play again. He was playing the best football of his career and is friends with Frank Clark, and we are very thin at his position, so I think there will be mutual interest if his ankle is good.
Prediction: If Charlton plays in the league in 2021, it will be with the Chiefs on another one-year deal.
LB Ben Niemann (Restricted): This is going to make some folks mad. The Chiefs are going to tender a restricted free agent offer to a player who played 43% of defensive snaps and 56% of special teams snaps this season. I actually respect Niemann a ton. I know he has a high football IQ and has to be a world-class hard worker to make it as far as he has with his athleticism. If the team wants to cut Dorian O'Daniel and keep Niemann as a core special teamer and backup, I'm actually OK with that. But he should not be seeing his defensive snap count. If I'm the Chiefs, I am scouting guys who played safety in college but are clearly too big to be NFL safeties to see if I can find one on day three of the draft to develop into the dime package coverage linebacker.
Prediction: The Chiefs will tender an offer to Niemann. He will probably be on the team in 2021 but hopefully will lose most of his defensive snaps to other players (looking at you, Willie Gay).
CB Charvarius Ward (restricted): A year makes a big difference. A year ago, I would have told you that Charvarius Ward would get a second-round tender to make sure that no team snatches him up. I have never been a big believer in Ward, but I thought we would need to put a higher tender on him to keep other teams from signing him. But the improvement I thought we would see this season flat out did not happen. You really can't justify paying the extra million to put a higher tender on Ward. He cannot cover without holding. I don't really fault a guy for not being able to come down with interceptions because there's usually a reason defensive backs aren't wide receivers. But his ball skills are exceptionally bad. I don't think he is really a better outside corner than Rashad Fenton, who I like but I don't particularly think is great. If BoPete Keyes shows some development this year, he would profile to a similar player to Ward. There will probably be some vets who are at least as good as Ward would would probably have a lower cap hit if signed to the veteran benefit contract.
Prediction: The Chiefs will tender an offer to Ward. I think Ward will be back, but I think this will be the last year we see him in Kansas City. If they manage to re-sign both Breeland and Ward, though, don't be surprised if one of them doesn't make it to final cuts if Deandre Baker is ready to go.
CB Alex Brown (exclusive rights): Brown probably should get a trophy for being the most forgotten player to dress for the Super Bowl LIV Champion Kansas City Chiefs. He was a reserve defensive back who played on special teams coverage units down the stretch. Sadly, he tore his ACL very early in camp and never had a chance to build on his experience. Given how down most draft experts, including the AP Nerd Squad are on this year's cornerback group, the Chiefs may prefer a young player like Brown who knows the system to whatever might be available day three of the draft. On the other hand, he's a small-school guy who got noticed by running a 4.42 40 at his pro day. If even a small portion of that speed is gone following the injury, so may be his chances of staying on the NFL radar.
Prediction: This one comes down to health. If the Chiefs are confident in his recovery, Brown will receive an exclusive rights tender, go to camp and probably be given a fair chance to win a spot on the back of the roster.
The Chiefs can probably find a way with the veteran salary benefit or unique salary structures to bring back anyone they want from this list. I would not say any player on this list will make or break the offseason, but it's concerning how many players had very high snap counts. Even if the production was not always there, this is a large amount of usage to have to account for.
Thanks for reading, and Go Chiefs. Ready to see us TAKE IT BACK!