It’s no secret that the Kansas City Chiefs need of another pass rusher.
Leading into the season, there were reasons to be optimistic about the pass rush. Rookie defensive end George Karlaftis had looked great during preseason games. We were able to look forward to the addition of Carlos Dunlap, a full season with Chris Jones at defensive tackle and maybe even a slimmed-down, more effective Frank Clark.
But so far, only one of those things has come to fruition. While Jones is having a great season, the rest of the team’s pass rushers are struggling to get pressure without blitzing.
2022 is a season of transition in Kansas City. While there’s already been plenty of roster turnover, it’s likely there will be more in 2023. In the next offseason, the team will have needs at premium (and expensive) positions — including offensive tackle, edge rusher and wide receiver.
Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers are collapsing. After posting a 1-4 record to begin the season, the team fired head coach Matt Rhule. In the first week under interim head coach Steve Wilks, things didn’t get much better. The Los Angeles Rams hammered Carolina 24-10.
So now there’s some speculation that an elite EDGE could be on the move.
The Panthers’ Brian Burns is now in his fourth year after being drafted 16th overall out of Florida State in 2019. He’s collected 29.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in his career and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2021. Burns has elite speed coming off the edge — and despite being the only real threat to sack the quarterback on Carolina’s defensive line, he’s been successful.
The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, November 1. The Chiefs have an opportunity to improve a valuable position over the long term. Speculation about a potential trade for Burns became even stronger on Tuesday when we learned that Kansas City had cleared up some cap space.
Let’s consider five reasons why the Chiefs should trade for Burns.
1. Immediate Impact
In case you missed Sunday’s 24-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills, a single pass rusher can make all the difference for a defense. While Burns might not already be headed to Canton, Ohio — like Buffalo’s Von Miller — his impact could be similar. Since they must grow into to a new scheme, wide receivers and defensive backs cannot make an immediate difference. EDGE, however, is a position where a new player can come in and make an instant impact — just as Miller did when the Denver Broncos traded him to the Rams in 2021. Like the Chiefs today, the Bills’ defensive line had been struggling to get pressure without a blitz. With Miller’s addition, the defense has become increasingly more flexible — and effective.
2. Position Scarcity
The Chiefs are clearly pacing towards another playoff appearance — meaning that in the 2023 NFL Draft, they will be once again be picking in the high 20s to low 30s. Edge rushers of Burns’ caliber don’t last to the 28th pick. While we’ve seen highly-drafted pass rushers who could contribute right away, most first or early second-round picks struggle to be anything more than rotational players. Trading for Burns would bring Kansas City a high-caliber player they would probably not be able to obtain in the draft.
3. Chris Jones
There are two elements in this potential trade that relate to Kansas City’s defensive tackle. The first is Burns’ on-the-field impact. Even while being the primary focus of every offensive line he faces, Jones is having a terrific season. But the best season of his career (15.5 sacks) came when he had good pass rushers on the edge: Dee Ford and Justin Houston. Adding Burns would be great for Jones, because offensive lines could no longer double-team him.
The second factor is that Jones is under contract only through 2023. Given his age, output and current contract, he will be seeking a top-of-market deal like Aaron Donald received. In the past — with the Tyreek Hill trade being the most recent example — the Chiefs have shown that they are not interested in making any player (besides quarterback Patrick Mahomes) the league’s most highly-paid player at their position. Trading for Burns could make Jones more tradeable. Could the Chiefs send a first-round pick for Burns — and get a first-rounder for Jones?
The Panthers have exercised their fifth-year option on Burns’ rookie deal. His base salary in 2022 is $2.3 million — so for the remainder of the season, his Kansas City cap hit would only be about $1.3 million. In 2023, his cap hit would be $16 million — which is pennies for an edge rusher. Just as they did with Orlando Brown Jr., the Chiefs would likely need to let Burns play on his rookie deal and then work to extend his contract in the offseason. But even if they don’t end up getting a deal done, $16 million is a very good price point for him — and in 2024, the franchise tag would still be an option.
5. Impact on young secondary
While Kansas City has committed to youth in its secondary, there are still lots of questions there for 2023. Safety Juan Thornhill is now his last season under contract and L’Jarius Sneed will be due for an extension soon. One way to help a new, inexperienced secondary is to generate pressure. So building up the Chiefs’ pass rush helps the defensive backs, too; they wouldn’t be forced to cover for six or seven seconds on each dropback. Adding Burns would not only raise the ceiling of Kansas City’s pass rush, but also the floor of the secondary.
The bottom line
If Kansas City is willing to part ways with some of their many 2023 draft picks, the team could land Burns. With linebacker Willie Gay Jr. returning from suspension and cornerback Trent McDuffie coming back from injury, adding Burns could make the Chiefs one of the league’s most-improved defenses at midseason — one that could hold down Josh Allen in the playoffs.