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8 free-agent pass rushers to watch for the Chiefs

We can already expect the Chiefs to invest in edge rushers via free agency — so who are some of the key names to watch come March 14?

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Super Bowl LVI - Los Angele Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

If you’ve been following along with Arrowhead Pride coverage much at all this offseason, you know by now that the team is expected to make plenty of moves along the defensive line — especially as it pertains to players who can line up at defensive end.

While re-signing Melvin Ingram is a fun option that I would certainly advocate for — and Alex Okafor displayed some worthwhile skill in his depth role last year — the front office and coaching staff seem headed in a direction that will invite plenty of new faces into the 2022 defensive end rotation.

The goal? Get more pass rushers who can win one-on-one matchups with greater consistency. Body frame prototype fits deserve some consideration, but ultimately the Chiefs have started to venture further from such trends by adding Ingram and 2020 fifth-round draft choice Mike Danna.

In this piece, we will take a closer look at a few free-agent edge rushers who could help the Chiefs boost their team pass rush production immediately.

High-price options

Von Miller

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With Miller, the deal would be expected to come in on shorter terms — maybe two or three years in length — but at a higher per-year cost — perhaps the $16-20 million range. Without Miller, the Los Angeles Rams would not be the current Super Bowl champions. It appeared he found the fountain of youth out in Los Angeles, posting nine sacks in his final eight games — four of which came in the playoffs, two in Super Bowl LVI.

More problematic than Miller’s age (33) for potential buyers is that he does have some significant recent injury history tied to his lower body. Another long-term issue (such as the foot injury that cost him all of 2020) could mean a complete waste of a signing.

This could be the riskiest potential signing of all — if he’s healthy, it could be enough to ensure the Chiefs are playing in the Super Bowl again next season. If he does fall to injury — which the likelihood seems higher than it would with other options — it will be a ton of cap dollars left on the sideline.

Harold Landry

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Remember earlier when we talked about not getting too caught up in size prototypes?

Look no further. Landry was a base 3-4 outside linebacker in Tennessee, and he’s shorter and lighter than a lot of Steve Spagnuolo’s traditional defensive ends have been. However, he does have 33-inch arms — about one and a half inches longer than Melvin Ingram’s.

So, let’s focus on what Landry can do for this Chiefs’ defense — and that would be bringing an edge rush presence better than anything fans have seen in quite some time.

Landry has been productive enough to warrant a three, four or five-year contract, likely at an annual rate of at least $15 million per season. He posted a career-high 12 sacks in 2021 and has 31 since being drafted in 2018. Equally or more impressive is his durability — missing just one game back in 2018 and none since.

Emmanuel Ogbah

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It was in Kansas City where Emmanuel Ogbah had his most significant leap in production during the 2019 season — and if it weren’t for a pectoral injury mid-year, he could have helped the team close out their Super Bowl LIV run. Since then, he joined the Miami Dolphins for two years, posting nine sacks each season while never missing a game. In 2019 with Kansas City, Ogbah collected 5.5 sacks in 10 games — clearly, the nine-to-10 sack range is a reasonable expectation for an entire season.

The past connection makes this one obvious as a potential signing — while the cap space situation was a little more dire for Kansas City back in 2020, now they have the financial resources to bring Ogbah back if he is toward the top of the wish list. A new deal for the 28-year-old ascender is likely to come in around 3 or 4 years; $10-15 million per season.

Ogbah won’t project as an elite-level defender, but he will be a very good one that can play on all downs at a high level. His 126 pressures in the past two years rank sixth among all edge rushers — and still, yet, his best years could be ahead of him.

Hidden value tier

Randy Gregory

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Talent isn’t and never has been the problem with Gregory — it is his ability to stay on the field for a wide variety of disciplinary and health-related reasons that will keep him from earning top-shelf money. His unique circumstances make predicting a contract difficult, but Gregory is coming off a career-year where he posted six sacks and three forced fumbles in 10 starts.

As a player, Gregory displays pass rush talent that only a couple of the other free agents can match — but the additional risks involved could have him off the board for some teams altogether.

Jason Pierre-Paul

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Pierre-Paul is the oldest player on this list and is coming off a down year, as he battled through shoulder injury issues all season. The connection comes in with Steve Spagnuolo, who led defenses that Pierre-Paul played under from 2015-17 with the New York Giants.

If the Chiefs truly do have somewhat of an overhaul defensively, Spagnuolo could bring Pierre-Paul over to help lead a newly constructed defensive line room. His best playing days are behind him, and the cost shouldn’t be very high as long as he retains the desire to play, but he did have 30.5 sacks from 2018 to 2020. Chiefs fans will recall that he also helped make life extremely difficult for Patrick Mahomes back in Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Charles Harris

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The former Mizzou first-round pick found his footing in Detroit after a failed initial stint with the Miami Dolphins. Harris’ trajectory is a little reminiscent of where Ogbah was a few years ago, so the team who signs him has to feel confident they will pay for his prime NFL years.

Coming off a year in which Harris registered over 50 QB pressures and 7.5 sacks, a one-to-three-year contract in the ballpark of $7-9 million per season could be a reasonable estimate for the price tag.

Kemoko Turay

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Yet another player on this list who saved his best season for the contract year — Turay has legitimate pass rush juice. He hasn’t technically started a game since his rookie year in 2018, so projecting him to take on such a role would be lofty for any team other than the Colts who know him well.

Per Pro Football Focus, Turay’s 12.72% pressure rate ranked 27th amongst all defensive linemen during the 2021 season. Furthermore, his production uptick matched it with a career-best 5.5 sacks. He feels like a player right now who would ideally take a one-year deal to assume a more significant role and then earn a bigger payday in 2023.

Dorance Armstrong Jr.

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Lastly, we have yet another defensive end potentially leaving the Dallas Cowboys — this one a former Kansas Jayhawk. Like so many others on this list, Armstrong easily put together his best season in 2021. After Randy Gregory suffered an injury during the middle of the year, Armstrong stepped up into a starting role for the first time at the NFL level.

He then finished the season out strong with some of his best performances late in the schedule. Armstrong is another player who fits the profile of a one-year signing who will hope to earn more money if he can play a more significant number of snaps in 2022.