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Making 8 more free agency decisions for the Chiefs

Should they stay or should they go? I answer that question for eight Chiefs defenders hitting free agency.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

With free agency starting in roughly a month, the Kansas City Chiefs need to use the time to evaluate which players to possibly sign — but also which of their 16 unrestricted free agents to bring back and re-sign. The cap space impacted by COVID-19 will be a big obstacle to overcome, but there are realistic ways to free up a respectable amount of room for 2021.

I looked at every Chiefs player that had their contract expire after the 2020 season and decided whether the team should attempt to re-sign them or not.

In Part 1 last Friday, we covered offensive free agents. Now in Part 2, we’ll make some decisions on the defensive side of the football:

Tanoh Kpassagnon

After finishing the 2019 campaign with a strong playoff run, there was momentum for Kpassagnon to become a constant on the Chiefs’ defense. But by the end of the 2020 season, he was barely holding on to his role as the third defensive end.

At his position, it’s all about getting to the quarterback — and Kpassagnon was incredibly unsuccessful at that in 2020. He earned a pressure on 6.1% of his pass rush snaps — the lowest among Chiefs defensive ends — while only totaling four total quarterback hits in 19 games.

The Chiefs need a reliable pass rusher opposite Frank Clark; Kpassagnon has proven that he is not that player.

Verdict: Let him walk

Taco Charlton

In his first season with the Chiefs, Charlton showed impressive flashes as a pass rusher. He earned two sacks and pressured quarterbacks on 21.4% of his pass-rushing snaps — an absurd number that was aided by a small sample size: six games with 90 total defensive plays.

In the seventh game, he fractured his ankle during the only play in which he was on the field. A situational pass rusher like Charlton would have been nice to have in the postseason — and in 2021, the need is still there.

The Chiefs should be able to bring him back on an inexpensive deal and give him another chance to prove his first-round talent.

Verdict: Re-sign

Alex Okafor

After many early-season games with a nagging hamstring injury, Okafor was a constant presence on the defensive line. Down the stretch, he made plays against the run and rushing the quarterback — but it’s hard to determine whether that warrants a re-signing.

Besides the fact that he will be 30 next season, his contract re-structure from last offseason pushed $2 million of his cap hit into 2021 — whether he’s on the team or not. Signing Okafor would mean they’d pay him the new contract’s money on top of the 2021 dead cap.

I believe drafting a defensive end during the first two days of the draft would be a smart alternative.

Verdict: Let him walk

Mike Pennel

Pennel — now 30 — does not offer much as a pass rusher. He’s strictly a run-stuffing, double-team-embracing defensive tackle — but the Chiefs might value that about him.

After starter Derrick Nnadi, none of the other defensive tackles make their money defending the run. Chris Jones, Tershawn Wharton and Khalen Saunders are all on the roster for that rare quickness or explosiveness at their size. If Nnadi were to go down, the interior could be in trouble against a strong rushing attack.

Re-signing Pennel to a similar deal as last offseason — one year with a cap hit below $1 million — sounds like a smart insurance plan.

Verdict: Re-sign to one-year deal

Damien Wilson

Opposing offenses consistently pick on Kansas City linebackers — and Wilson is as big a victim as any. His lack of sideline-to-sideline range is constantly exploited with stretch handoffs and quick throws to the outside.

Next season, the more athletic Willie Gay Jr. will likely take over for Wilson in the team’s nickel personnel package, in which only two linebackers are on the field. Wilson’s role as the SAM linebacker in base packages just isn’t enough to re-sign him.

Verdict: Let him walk

Daniel Sorensen

Sorensen is one of those players that just cannot be as valuable to other teams as he is to the Chiefs. I highly doubt any other team would rely on the 31-year-old to play the second-most snaps on their defense — while also being a leader of their special teams unit.

That was the case for Sorensen in 2020. Moving forward, the re-emergence of safety Juan Thornhill may take away from Sorensen’s defensive role; he likely won’t need to be relied upon as much as he was in 2020.

A team-friendly, multi-year contract sounds like the right move.

Verdict: Re-sign

Antonio Hamilton

Hamilton was signed to be a key part of the special teams unit, and that’s all he was in 2020. In the preseason, he did receive some hype as a potential piece of the defensive secondary — but outside of Week 17, he ended up playing only 91 defensive snaps . His role on the team can — and should — be filled by a younger player who has a chance to develop into a contributor on defense.

Verdict: Let him walk

Bashaud Breeland

Even though he’ll be 29 in 2021, Breeland has never signed that one free-agent contract that every NFL player wants. Since his rookie deal expired, he’s signed three one-year contracts totaling roughly $6 million. After a great Super Bowl performance, it felt like the multi-year deal would happen last offseason — but instead, he was back with a $2.3 million cap hit.

This offseason, he’s coming off a playoff run where five penalties were called on him. Along with a stacked free agency class of veteran cornerbacks, Breeland won’t be in high demand.

L’Jarius Sneed could move out to the outside position, but re-signing Breeland — along with retaining restricted free agent Charvarius Ward — gives the Chiefs another year to evaluate the future of that spot without starting an inexperienced player as a boundary cornerback.

Verdict: Re-sign to one-year deal

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