Free agency is one of the more captivating times of the NFL calendar. Players go from one team to another, sometimes earning many millions of dollars in the process. Some argue the most intriguing scenario is when a player stays in the division, creating a natural storyline two times a season.
That happened in the AFC West this offseason, as now-former Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill turned in his powder blue for the Kansas City Chiefs' red and gold. General manager Brett Veach offered him a one-year contract worth $3 million, which can reach up to $5 million based on incentives.
Considering the Chiefs already had Nick Bolton, Willie Gay Jr. and Leo Chenal in their linebacker room, it suddenly became one of the strongest position groups on the team. Jack Cochrane and Cole Christiansen round out the group.
But let’s learn a little more about the new guy. To do that, we crossed enemy lines and sent some questions to Bolts From the Blue writer Michael Peterson.
1 - How would you recap Tranquill’s time with the Chargers?
PETERSON: Tranquill’s time with the Chargers started off on a high note back in 2019 when he came in as a rookie and blocked two punts as a special teams ace while also playing in a rotational role at inside linebacker. The hype heading into his sophomore campaign came and went swiftly after he sustained a season-ending injury in Week 1 of 2020 against the Bengals.
In 2021, he started a career-high seven games and once again played in a rotation with Kyzir White and Kenneth Murray. It was this past season where Tranquill truly broke out within Brandon Staley’s system by stuffing the stat sheet across the board.
He has always been an emotional leader for the locker room and has recently been one of the more vocal members of the team, especially when he stared delving into the media side of things with his own podcast he started within the last year or two.
There was a lot of “he-said, she-said” about how Tranquill’s time came to an end in Los Angeles, but overall, the fans are happy he was a part of this team and wish him nothing but the best in Kansas City (outside of revenge games, of course).
2 - How do Chargers fans feel about the team not retaining him?
PETERSON: Confused, mainly. This was the second consecutive offseason where the Chargers failed to retain a young linebacker coming off a career season where they showed they could be a difference-maker in Staley’s defense.
Ultimately, it sounds like it came down to the Chargers not wanting to overpay Tranquill after one good season, and Tranquill ultimately took similar money to go play for a team with a higher chance of winning the Super Bowl on a yearly basis. While many respect his decision, plenty of fans feel betrayed to see him go to a division rival.
3 - What are his strengths?
PETERSON: Tranquill’s background as a former safety really gives him a solid athletic floor as a rangy linebacker with above-average speed. He grew into a larger body with ease and you saw his aggression get turned up in 2022 as he was utilized much more on blitzes up the A-gaps. Similar to White in 2021, the quickness off the line created a number of plays behind the line of scrimmage and this is where I think he fits in the best with the Chiefs. Alongside Willie Gay, Leo Chenal and Nick Bolton, the Chiefs could have four linebackers with the ability to cause havoc in the box.
4 - What are his weaknesses?
PETERSON: Tranquill is still a bit on the leaner side for an NFL linebacker and that will cause him to get washed out of plays if he’s not able to keep himself clean. He’s decently strong, but he’s not going to be throwing offensive linemen off of him all that often. He can also be a bit too overaggressive with some of his pursuit angles and run past ball-carriers.
5 - Anything to know about him off the field?
PETERSON: Nothing to really write home about. He’s a standup guy with tons of emotion and passion for what he does. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him quickly become a fan favorite amongst the fan base.
Pete’s take: The Chiefs have won seven straight division titles. I think those results can sometimes warp our sense of just how difficult that is to accomplish. As mentioned before, Veach’s free agency plan had a very clear-cut theme: acquire young players (like Jawaan Taylor and Charles Omenihu) coming off their best season and see what they can do for the Chiefs. But signing the 27-year-old Tranquill may be the sweetest signing of the three, considering he was last year’s tackle leader for Los Angeles — still the greatest threat to unseat the Chiefs in the AFC West.
The tandem of Bolton and Gay is one of the NFL's better up-and-coming duos, but the players’ ability to drop back in coverage has been a work in progress. Given that this is one of Tranquill’s strengths, this could potentially be a significant upgrade over free-agent Darius Harris. Peterson also noted Tranquill’s blitzing ability, which you know has defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo licking his chops.
I also love the double-motivation factor built in here, as Tranquill can prove his old team wrong in the division while entering the undefeated contract year.