On Tuesday, the football analytics site Pro Football Focus published its 2021 rankings for defensive linemen — starting with Ben Linsey’s article about the top 32 interior defenders. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald topped the list — followed by the expected Kansas City Chiefs player.
2. Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
Jones has comfortably been the second-best interior pass rusher in the league behind Donald over the past three seasons. He’s earned 90.0-plus pass-rushing grades in every year since 2018, and his 92.8 pass-rushing grade last season placed him second among all defenders. Jones also ranks second in the NFL in both sacks (32.0) and quarterback hits (49) since 2018. His interior push has helped carry a pass-rushing unit that is still looking for additional consistent contributors following the addition of Frank Clark two offseasons ago.
Linsey also prepared PFF’s piece describing the league’s top 32 edge defenders for 2021, which was led by the Chicago Bears’ Khalil Mack (1), Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt (2), Los Angeles Chargers’ Joey Bosa (3), Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns (4) and Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers (5). No Chiefs made the 2021 edge defenders list — although Frank Clark was listed 25th before the 2020 season.
But the Chiefs didn’t go unmentioned in Linsey’s article.
25. Melvin Ingram III, Free Agent
Ingram is the most impactful free agent edge rusher still on the market following several seasons limited by injury in Los Angeles. Don’t be fooled by the goose egg in the sack column last season, though. Ingram still put up pass-rushing grades above 75.0 in each of the past two years and has plenty to offer teams as a pass-rusher. Teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs — neither of whom have representatives on this list — should have interest.
If there’s one complaint to be made about the Chiefs’ offseason moves, it’s the lack of progress at the edge of the defensive line. They acquired former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed to help Jones on the interior, but there has been no corresponding move to assist Clark on the edge.
As Linsey noted, the former Chargers defensive end is still on the market. The Chiefs did meet with Ingram on March 23, but he left Kansas City without a deal. Whether that was because Ingram and the Chiefs couldn’t come to terms — or whether the Chiefs didn’t feel Ingram was the right player for them — is unknown. Ingram is reported to have met with the Dolphins on Monday. If he’s still available in the coming days, the Chiefs could still make a move to sign the 32-year-old pass rusher, who struggled with injuries in 2020. They’d be able to make a more team-friendly deal than would have been possible two months ago.
The Chiefs will otherwise have to depend on players like former first-round pick Taco Charlton, second-year player Michael Danna, newly-signed free agent Kamalei Correa, the intriguing Tim Ward and fourth-round pick Joshua Kaindoh to step into the void created with the departures of Tanoh Kpassagnon and Alex Okafor.