Ever since defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was hired in 2019, safeties have been a focal point of the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense — so the front office has always made an effort to keep the room filled with quality players.
In 2023, Justin Reid and Bryan Cook are both returning for their second year in the scheme — and the team has signed free-agent safety Mike Edwards. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, Edwards racked up 82 tackles, two interceptions, three passes defended and a sack while playing the fifth-most defensive snaps on the team.
But in Kansas City, he might be used in a situational role — which speaks to the strength of the position group.
“They are real smart,” Edwards said of Reid and Cook after Thursday’s practice session at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. “Cook does not look like he was a rookie last year. He looks phenomenal. He is making all of the calls back there and looking like a vet. That’s my guy — we’re both from Cincinnati — so I got to love him. We’re doing good back there.”
While Edwards was admitting to some personal bias, his views about the second-year player are in step with what we’ve been hearing about Cook this offseason. His coach and teammates have noticed his vocal leadership, which is an essential trait for an NFL safety.
Spags yesterday: "Guys that will blurt it out loud and proud, whether they’re wrong or right, I like those guys. [Bryan] Cook was like that last year."— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) June 2, 2023
Nick Bolton last week: “If he’s 100% wrong, he makes you believe he’s 100% right."
That's one way to praise Cook's confidence
“They want to learn,” Edwards continued. “That’s what I love. [They’re] good playmakers; everyone wants to make a play. From the top, Reid been in the league for six years — so he is like the veteran guy out there. He is a good, knowledgeable guy — so I learned from him when I first got here. We’ve got guys all over; everybody can come in and play.”
Even fourth-round rookie Chamarri Conner has stood out to Edwards.
“Chamarri is a phenomenal player,” said the former third-round pick. “He is kind of like me when I was a rookie: he learns very well. You can see he has some things you can’t teach as far as instincts; some people can’t have that. He can play all over. He can play dime [or] safety. I really like how he approaches it.”
The versatility is a legitimate comparison. Throughout his time at Virginia Tech, Conner played as a slot defender, as a true free safety and in the box. That’s just like Edwards, who has spent plenty of time in all three roles during his NFL career.
That makes both Edwards and Conner perfect for Spagnuolo’s Kansas City defense. On a third down, there’s no telling where the unit’s defensive backs will line up. Edwards is ready for that.
“Wherever they need me — safety, dime, nickel, wherever they want to put me at,” Edwards said of his on-field role. “I know we got guys all over — from top to bottom — playing dime, corner... we’ve got a lot of defensive backs. I’ll fit in wherever. I’ll learn the playbook and learn each spot — wherever they want me at.”
So while Edwards will fit right into his new home, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be a starter. With the Chiefs, it’s a competitive position — and there are already two players in whom the team has made more significant investments than it has in Edwards.
It may lead to a reduction in his playing time — but maybe not his on-field production. In Spagnuolo’s scheme, the unit will often feature three safeties on the biggest plays — and in those situations, Edwards will very likely be an X-factor.