Lack of Edge Rushers Could Bite Chiefs and Chargers

Kansas City Chiefs ER Frank Clark
Kansas City Chiefs ER Frank Clark
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

For this May round of Four Downs, we will be looking at each team's biggest remaining need as well as notable undrafted free agents who will be going to camp with each franchise.


Biggest Need: Quarterback

For all any of us know, Aaron Rodgers could be wearing a Broncos uniform by the time the season rolls around. That probably will not be a reality until after June 1, though, due to how Rodgers' cap hits can be divided up after that point. The Packers would have to eat $38 million in dead cap if Rodgers were to be released or traded before June 1, but that number falls to $21 million if released or traded afterwards, with the remaining $17 million getting pushed to the 2022 cap.

Until then, if it happens at all, the Broncos have a need at quarterback. The organization appears to be out on Drew Lock, while Teddy Bridgewater is little more than a segue to the next attempt to find a franchise passer. Denver could have taken Justin Fields at ninth overall but opted to fix their other pressing need at cornerback. The Broncos roster would be playoff-ready if they had a quarterback right now, so they will probably be doing everything they can over the next month or so to secure Rodgers' services.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

Iowa's Shaun Beyer is exactly what you might expect from an undrafted Big Ten tight end. At 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, Beyer has good size and plenty of strength, which gives him value as a run-blocker. Beyer could stick around and earn a role as a goal-line or short-yardage blocker. Illinois State tackle Drew Himmelman also brings some intrigue in the sense that there are only so many 6-foot-9, 323-pound athletes in the world, and he is one of them.


Biggest Need: Edge Rusher

Kansas City spent their priority draft picks on offensive line. They traded for Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown with their first-round pick, then snagged Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey with a second-round pick. Pass-rusher was not addressed by the Chiefs until the fourth-round with the selection of Florida State's Joshua Kaindoh. Kaindoh can add quality depth, but it's highly unlikely he becomes the No. 2 opposite Frank Clark that this defense needs.

The Chiefs' second and third pass-rushers right now are Taco Charlton and Mike Danna. Though Charlton did post 10 pressures on just 51 pass-rush snaps last season, he was never close to that productive in any of his first three seasons through larger samples. Danna, on the other hand, is a strong run defender and quality rotational player, but his 7.8% pressure rate (according to Sports Info Solutions) is uninspiring.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

Quarterback Shane Buechele (SMU) could be Andy Reid's Case Keenum. Though Buechele lacks ideal arm strength and can run hot and cold against pressure, he throws with quality accuracy and can generally keep the ship afloat from a decision-making perspective. Buechele will not create explosive plays, but he could do enough as a spot starter to keep the team above water if need be. Linebacker Riley Cole, who played both strong-side linebacker and inside linebacker at South Alabama, could also earn a roster spot in a pretty middling Chiefs linebacker room.


Biggest Need: Interior Offensive Line

Center Rodney Hudson, one of the best in the league at his position, was traded to the Cardinals and replaced by free agent Nick Martin. Martin is a quality pass-protector, blowing just 24 blocks on 2,443 pass pro reps in his four years with the Texans, but his run-blocking skills are some of the worst among the league's 32 starters. The Raiders also traded stud right guard Gabe Jackson to the Seahawks. Jackson is being replaced by Denzelle Good, who has been OK as a fill-in for the Raiders the past couple years, but is not high-quality starter material, especially as a pass-protector (17 blown blocks in 2020).

Las Vegas' best interior offensive lineman is Richie Incognito, a 38-year-old coming off a season-ending ankle injury. If Incognito cannot play up to his normal standard following this injury, the Raiders offensive line will be in huge trouble, especially with a rookie also starting at right tackle.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

BYU tight end Matt Bushman is an intriguing option as far as pass-catching chops go. Bushman is a 25-year-old rookie who can not block very well, but he possesses natural ball skills and a fairly impressive catch radius. On defense, West Virginia defensive tackle Darius Stills has some untapped athleticism. Stills' short-shuttle, three-cone drill, 40-yard dash, broad jump, and vertical jump at the WVU pro day all come in above the 75th percentile among defensive tackle prospects since 1999.


Biggest Need: Edge Rusher

Joey Bosa is about as good as a No. 1 pass-rushing option as it gets. The rest of the Chargers pass-rushing crew leaves something to be desired. As it stands now, Uchenna Nwosu is set to take over the other starting spot. Nwosu handled that responsibility for parts of last year as Melvin Ingram, who has since walked in free agency, dealt with injury. Nwosu is not bad by any means, but he has never seen more than 37% of the team's snaps and is best suited for a No. 3 role off the bench. The Chargers' other option is Kyler Fackrell, who earned just 21 pressures on 355 pass-rushing snaps (5.9%) with the Giants last year.

All the Chargers did to address this in the draft was take Duke's Chris Rumph III in the fourth round. Rumph may well provide good depth value right away, but he is not going to be an above-average starter across from Bosa out of the gate, if ever. Perhaps new head coach Brandon Staley can work some magic and get more from either Nwosu or Fackrell than anticipated.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

Oregon tight end Hunter Kampmoyer may fill into the blocking role the Chargers need. A former defensive end, Kampmoyer is more of a nasty, tough blocker than a pass-catcher, but perhaps a few more years of really settling into the position could change that. The Chargers may also get some contributions from linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga (Oklahoma State). Though he can not fill into Denzel Perryman's thumper role, Ogbongbemiga sports great athleticism and motor and could be a decent fit for Brandon Staley's defense. It's not like the Chargers linebacker room is particularly competitive anyway.

Portions of this article previously appeared on ESPN+.


6 comments, Last at 30 Jun 2021, 12:30pm

1 Watching Mike Danna run

Is like seeing a guy rush from the kitchen to the TV with a full beer in his hand (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

But then, he had a hammy last year, so maybe he'll add some giddy up to his scoot this season.

2 I certainly would like to…

I certainly would like to have seen the Chiefs add an edge rusher. I think part of their plan is to use Reed and a warm body at DT and move Jones to the edge in passing situations.

4 Yes, it's...not a good idea.

There's been speculation that the plan is to move Jones to EDGE part-time evwr since we picked up Reed. Depending on who you ask, it'd either be on early downs and/or base packages, or on passing downs/sub packages.

Neither are a great idea, although the passing downs version is at least somewhat less silly. Chris Jones is good at many defense is not one of them, and I can't see a path where he'd be any more successful setting the edge.

Jones has always played on the interior (he played DE when KC was running Sutton's 3-4, then moved to 3-tech under Spagnuolo's 4-3), so there's no real historical reason to believe he'd be successful at it, either.

5 Would be interesting nonetheless

Would have to have an unstoppable bullrush. Stillt wouldn't be able to set the edge though with 0 bend. 

Anyway, better off trying a rookie til he gets it. Don't need to weaken the interior too. 

6 Edge rushers aren't very…

Edge rushers aren't very valuable to a defence. Coordinated team rush, spend your money elsewhere, ala Belichick.