Kansas City Chiefs: 6 Linebackers Who May Play Alongside Derrick Johnson in 2012
Going into this offseason, one of the top five needs for the Kansas City Chiefs was at the inside linebacker position.
KC is already set with Pro Bowler Derrick Johnson at one ILB slot, but the spot next to him is a much different story.
Fourth-year man Jovan Belcher has been playing at that inside linebacker spot for the past two seasons, and he hasn't exactly lit the world on fire for Kansas City's defense.
With several talented ILB prospects in this year's draft class, it may be time for the Chiefs to look to upgrade that position soon.
However, they could still re-sign Belcher, who is slated to be a restricted free agent when the free agency period begins next week. They also have veteran Brandon Siler, whom they re-signed near the end of last season.
Here are six players who may start next to Derrick Johnson on the Chiefs defense in 2012.
Jovan Belcher, Current Chief
Jovan Belcher is the incumbent starter at the left inside linebacker position for the Chiefs defense.
He has started 31 games over the past two seasons, and has averaged 85 tackles a year.
The former University of Maine star hasn't provided many big plays for this defense, but at just 24 years of age, he still has some time to grow and develop into a more consistent player.
This offseason will go a long way in telling how comfortable the Chiefs are with Belcher starting next to Derrick Johnson next season.
Brandon Siler, Current Chief
The Chiefs signed ex-San Diego Charger Brandon Siler last offseason in hopes that he could come in and make an immediate impact in their linebacking corps.
Instead, he ended up missing the entire '11 season after being placed on injured reserve less than a month later with a torn Achilles.
Since his injury, KC has remained confident in his abilities, as they decided to re-sign him to a one-year deal back in December.
The Daytona Beach, FL product has a decent shot to start at ILB for the Chiefs this year because of how good he is against the run.
Jameel McClain, Free Agent from Baltimore
Baltimore's Jameel McClain is the only free agent inside linebacker that I see as a real possibility for Kansas City next season, as he is one of the most talented FAs in this year's class that has experience with the 3-4 defense.
Similar to current Chiefs starting ILB Jovan Belcher, McClain has started 31 games over the past two seasons from the spot.
Also like Belcher, he was undrafted before the Ravens scooped him up in the '08 offseason.
At 26 years of age, the Syracuse product could have his best days still ahead of him, which could begin with starting on KC's defense in 2012.
Luke Kuechly, Rookie from Boston College
Boston College's Luke Kuechly is arguably the most talented ILB prospect in this year's draft class and should be the first player at his position off the board in April.
He has a non-stop motor and is very instinctive on defense.
The 6'3", 237-pound linebacker has the ability to step in and start immediately for this defense in 2012.
The Chiefs would likely have to spend their first-round pick on him, but he could be worth the risk in the end.
Vontaze Burfict, Rookie from Arizona State
Vontaze Burfict is one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in this year's draft.
He is very talented and has a knack for making big plays, but he has also had a tendency to be undisciplined and commit unnecessary penalties on defense.
Fortunately for KC, they have one of the best defensive minds in the game in Romeo Crennel as their head coach.
With the work that Crennel has already done with current Chief LBs Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, there is no reason to think that he couldn't do the same with Burfict as well.
Audie Cole, Rookie from North Carolina State
Audie Cole is another solid ILB prospect in this year's draft class that should be available on Day 2 or 3.
He made a name for himself at NC State after leading the Wolfpack in tackles in each of his last three seasons at the school.
The NC State star isn't going to woe you with his style of play, but he is an excellent tackler and has a high football IQ for his position.
Cole could end up being one of the biggest steals in the later rounds of next month's draft.