The Kansas City Chiefs entered their offseason with a clear-cut need at the defensive end position.
As the Chiefs watched marquee names like Chandler Jones (Las Vegas Raiders), Randy Gregory (Denver Broncos) and Khalil Mack (Los Angeles Chargers) go to division rivals, the consensus thought was that free-agent Melvin Ingram would eventually end up back in Kansas City.
But it was not to be. Ingram signed with the Miami Dolphins in May, leaving the Chiefs with scarce options at the position. Knowing that, the Chiefs hosted 12-year veteran Carlos Dunlap to St. Joseph in late July. It did not matter to Kansas City’s coaches that Dunlap would be arriving in the middle of the night.
"I landed at what? 10:30. Got here at 11:30, and the whole staff was here," said Dunlap, speaking to the media after Thursday's practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. "They had all the questions that I wanted to get answered. Each one of them spent time. [I] spent time with coach (Andy) Reid one on one, eating pizza, then went in there with [defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] and (defensive line) coach [Joe] Cullen, watched some tape. Basically showed me where I would be, the defense they run, how they call it, his rhythm — and I liked where I fit. So that morning, I signed."
Fortunately for the Chiefs, Dunlap took plenty of time as he looked for which team he wanted to join in 2022. After 11 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and two with the Seattle Seahawks, he knew what he desired — and was willing to wait for the right situation to present itself.
"This is my 13th year," he said. "I've done it 12 different ways, so I wanted to make sure I made an educated decision and went with a team where there was mutual interest in my ability to play and how I'd be used — and the opportunity to win, because at this point, I've done a lot of football. One of the things I have not done is I haven't gotten over 100 sacks, I haven't won a playoff game, and I haven't clearly won a Super Bowl. So those are things I'd like to do at this point in my career, and I'm in hot pursuit, and I feel like this team gives me a great opportunity — the best opportunity to do it."
At 96.0 career sacks, the veteran needs only four to reach that 100-sack milestone, a feat only accomplished by 60 players since 1960. Had Dunlap been a Chief in 2021, 4.0 sacks would have been good for third on the team. But don’t tell him that.
"Four sacks on the year is not my goal," said Dunlap. "I try to average 8.0 a year, and I want to go for more than that. I put my money where my mouth is with the deal we did — we structured it that way, for the incentives to increase it."
When Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo spoke to the media last week, he was reluctant to say too much, considering Dunlap had not put "pen to paper." Thursday's media session was a different story.
"The first thing that sticks out is the length," said Spagnuolo of the 6-foot-6 Dunlap. "I remember a couple years [when] we had [Tanoh Kpassagnon], and I always thought that was nice to have inside or outside because I think that's tough for quarterbacks — so that's the first thing. It's another veteran that's been through the thick of things, so I think that's an advantage — and then, short of that, I've obviously seen him play. Not a lot — I've watched a little bit of tape. It's really going to be us figuring out what he can do, where to put him."
Dunlap has registered at least 6.0 sacks in every season since 2011, an impressive showcase of consistency at a skill that is not easily developed. Dunlap's single-season career-high for sacks is 13.5, which he accomplished with Cincinnati in 2015.
"He's done it for a long time," said Spagnuolo. "The system he was in in Cincinnati all those years was kind of conducive for him. Mike Zimmer had him for a long time in what they were doing. It was a four-down system; call it what you want. We're multiple now, so a couple different things, but I think he functions well outside. We've talked about him playing inside — we'll see where that goes. I'm not really sure. I want to get him comfortable at one spot first. But again, I go back to the length. He knows how to get to the quarterback. Sometimes, that's just innate. I always say 70% pass rush is ‘want-to.’"
With the defense being brand new to Dunlap, the Chiefs held him out of any practice reps on Thursday — but he watched from the sidelines. Upon his arrival, one of the first of the new teammates to whom Dunlap spoke was defensive tackle Chris Jones, who had worked out with him in Miami during the offseason. Back then, Dunlap wasn't yet a Chief.
"When I got here today, [Jones] was like, 'We didn't know this was going to be a real thing,'" said Dunlap. "It's kind of cooler that we already go to know each other a little bit this offseason because we've been working together."
Dunlap revealed that a couple of other teams were interested, but as he talked more and more with the Chiefs, he sensed a level of comfort in their plans. With the defensive end being a 33-year-old, not every team necessarily felt he could be an asset on every down. But it sounds like the Chiefs plan to make him a starter in their lineup.
"We'll be rolling," said Dunlap. "You got a young bull — [a] first-round pick who has a lot of talent. The sky's the limit for him, so the opportunity [is there for me] to play on every down. At this point in my career, because I've been a closer in so many games and have 96.0 sacks in my career, they try to correlate with being older, taking down your snaps, featuring you in passing situations. But I like to eat [whatever] you put on the table. First and second down are just as important to me as third down.
"I've done many things on third down — closed many games on third down — but I feel like if you impact the game early on first and second down, you can put the game away even sooner. Clearly, these guys have lit up the scoreboard a million and one times, so I look forward to contributing my strengths to what they already do well here."
You can find full observations posted from Thursday’s practice here.
Chiefs Training Camp Report - Thursday, August 4 - Day 8 https://t.co/U2dP2FgfYx— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) August 4, 2022
Press conferences (Steve Spagnuolo, Carlos Dunlap, Skyy Moore and Andrew Wylie)
- Did not practice (due to injury): CB Rashad Fenton (shoulder) OL Lucas Niang (knee), TE Jody Fortson (quad), WR Daurice Fountain (groin), WR Gary Jennings (concussion)
- Returned to practice: OL Prince Tega Wanogho (leg)
Tweet of the day
Quote of the day
Wide receiver Skyy Moore on it hitting him that he's playing with Patrick Mahomes: "It's hard to have that type of moment while I'm playing, but like, when I go back home and see a video or something, I'll be like, 'Dang, that's crazy.'"
The Chiefs will have a day off on Friday and resume camp with a padded practice on Saturday. Saturday's practice begins at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Here's the complete schedule. The team's linebackers will be available to sign autographs after practice as head coach Andy Reid addresses the media at the podium.