Nick Jacobs: Best edge-rusher fits for Chiefs in free agency

Vikings Lions Football
Posted at 6:12 AM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 12:32:22-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs defense saw its sack total drop from 45 in 2019 to 32 in 2020 as Kansas City had to manufacture more pressure with linebacker, cornerback and safety blitzes,

The loss of Emmanuel Ogbah, who signed with Miami last offseason, showed throughout the season, especially after Taco Charlton went on injured reserve with a broken ankle.

The Chiefs siply did not have a steady wave of pass rushers to pair with Frank Clark, Chris Jones and Tershawn Wharton.

Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach likely will be in the market for a strong side end opposite Clark to hold the edge and beat one-on-one blocks, especially on passing downs when the opportunity arises.

The defensive-end market has some of the top players coming off of injury with some standouts who performed in contract years.

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Here are some options for the Chiefs to consider and how they'd fit in Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme:

Romeo Okwara, Lions
Height: 6'4" Weight: 263 Age: 25

Okwara is built a lot like Charlton, but he packs a punch as a pass rusher. He is very athletic around the edge and has one of the best bends coming onto the market.

Okwara is a solid bull-rusher but his dip-and-rip can be downright lethal. He is a high-energy edge rusher and is relentless in chasing down the ball carrier.

Okwara is capable of rushing from both sides but going against the right tackle looks more natural for him. He has a minor hitch in his hips when he changes direction and accelerates, but once he gets turned he gets to the target quickly.

Trey Hendrickson, Saints
Height: 6'4" Weight: 270 Age: 26

Hendrickson is a high-energy football player. He has sneaky acceleration that offensive linemen don't realize at times until it is too late. He has a good dip-and-rip and is able to convert speed into power with his bull rushes.

Hendrickson can twist, loop and run games with the best of them. He does a good job of reading the fake before crashing down the line of scrimmage and also shows a solid change of direction with a good feel for how to defeat the tackle.

The downside for Hendrickson is that he rushed from the right end, going against the opposing left tackle, and would be a more natrual fit for the LEO role, which is currently occupied by Clark.

Hendrickson shines when he is allowed to show off his high energy and acceleration as an edge rusher. He will likely get a double-digit offer on the market with what he put on tape.

Jadeveon Clowney, Titans
Height: 6'5" Weight: 255 Age: 28

Clowney is another player coming off of injury. He had surgery on the meniscus in his left knee in early December.

The Titans had him reading and reacting too much in their scheme while being a standup edge rusher.

Clowney is at his best when he is allowed to use his speed and strength to attack upfield. He still had elite acceleration and closing speed before the knee injury, and he can still shoot a gap with the best of them, causing massive disruption in the backfield.

The medicals will be crucial for Clowney to get the contract value he is looking for on the open market.

Matt Judon, Ravens
Height: 6'3" Weight: 260 Age: 28

Judon appears to be more comfortable rushing against the right tackle. He has solid acceleration and a good dip, rip and bend to go with it.

He can hold the edge on both sides. Judon has to strength to overpower a tight end and hold his own against a tackle. He shoots the gap well on plays.

Judon seems to be a little hesitant when diagnosing the run in the backfield. He doesn't give up on plays, though, and is willing to chase down the ball carrier even if it is 20 yards downfield.

He will likely get big money on the market and might be out of the Chiefs' price range for the role he would fill in Kansas City.

Aldon Smith, Cowboys
Height: 6'5" Weight: 255 Age: 31

Smith isn't the same rusher he was in his prime, but he still has good athletic ability and can maintain from the edge to the sideline. After several seasons out of the league, though, the overwhelming athletic ability didn't flash on tape.

The Raytown graduate and former Mizzou star still has a solid bull rush along with a good dip-and-rip. He is capable of rushing from multiple sides on the line.

Smith still has good strength to keep offensive linemen at arm's length, disengage and make the tackle at the line. He could be a good rotational rusher but may not fit as a full-time starter.

Von Miller, Broncos
Height: 6'3" Weight: 250 Age: 31

The Broncos have a decision to make on Von Miller before the new league year begins. He currently is not a free agent, but the team can decline his option making him one.

This evaluation is based on before his injury last season. Miller is capable of rushing from both sides on the line with similar production from either side.

Miller understands every rush move in the book and how to properly hand fight as well as use his leverage. He still has enough athletic ability in the tank to give tackles problems.

He reads the backfield well and disengages from blocks to try and make a play. He isn't the elite rusher he once was, but he still is better than what the Chiefs had opposite of Frank Clark last season when Charlton wasn't available.

Bud Dupree, Steelers
Height: 6'4" Weight: 269 Age 28

Dupree suffered an ACL injury late last season. Teams will likely wonder how the injury has impacted his acceleration and ability to change directions as those are massive parts of his game against both the run and pass.

Dupree is stronger than expected with long arms. He is quick around the corner and has a good dip to go with it. He comes crashing hard down the line of scrimmage to blow up the ball carrier and can come a little bit uncontrolled around the edge at times.

It will be interesting to see what price he gets on the open market. He primarily rushed against left tackles last season.

Solomon Thomas, 49ers
Height: 6'2" Weight: 280 Age: 25

Thomas also is coming off a torn ACL, which he suffered in September 2020. He is a solid run defender who has good strength. He has solid athletic ability running down the line of scrimmage for his size.

Thomas can hold the line of scrimmage and could likely hold the edge in the run game against a right tackle. He was able to loop, twist and pull before the injury with effectiveness.

He shouldn't break the bank but could provide the Chiefs a good run defender who could move around the line similar to Ogbah.

Olivier Vernon, Browns
Height: 6'2" Weight: 262 Age: 30

Vernon is coming off a ruptured Achilles in week 17. He had lost a step athletically but was able to make up for it with his strength and overall size.

He looked comfortable rushing the right tackle. He is able to utilize more of a bull-rushing power style and maintain the edge before his injury.

The medical report will be important for when he could get back on the field and regain the ability he had before.

Free agency is set to formally begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday, but teams can begin discussing deals with the free agents at 11 a.m. on Monday.