The Kansas City Chiefs have been quiet during free agency to this point. General manager John Dorsey is taking a page from Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson so far, waiting for all the foolish spending at the start of free agency to stop.
Tight on salary-cap space, the Chiefs couldn’t be that active early in free agency. The salary cap didn’t prevent the Chiefs from signing a few players, but for the first few days, they had lost a lot more talent than they gained. The only free agents the Chiefs had signed from other teams were offensive lineman Jeffrey Linkenbach and linebacker Joe Mays.
The first impact signing came Friday when the Chiefs signed Vance Walker to a three-year, $13 million contract with $3.75 million guaranteed, per ESPN’s Josina Anderson. Walker signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders last year hoping to rehab his market value.
With the signing, the Chiefs have their replacement for the departed Tyson Jackson at defensive end. Jackson signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons with an $8 million signing bonus and a total of $11 million guaranteed, per Spotrac.com’s breakdown.
|Jackson vs. Walker|
|Player||Average Salary||Guarantees||PFF Run Defense Grade||PFF Pass Rush Grade||Sacks||Hits||Hurries|
Walker is a much better pass-rusher than Jackson. Whereas Jackson had four sacks and eight hurries last year, Walker had three sacks, six quarterback hits and 32 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The Chiefs may lose some run defense with the swap, but Walker has plenty of size to set the edge. Walker weighs in over 300 pounds, roughly the same size as the Chiefs’ other defensive end, Mike DeVito. Walker was far from a liability against the run last year as a defensive tackle in the Raiders’ 4-3 scheme, but he wasn’t great.
This will be Walker’s first time playing defensive end in a 3-4, so there may be a transition period. Walker will go from drawing blocking from centers and guards to trying to beat more offensive tackles in some alignments. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s scheme and the presence of Tamba Hali should still allow him to work against the guard in space.
Walker was a bit inconsistent for the Raiders. It could be that there was little talent around Walker to draw attention from the opposing offensive line. Playing next to Dontari Poe and Hali could help Walker develop into a more disruptive player, as he’ll almost never draw a double-team.
The Chiefs also hurt the Raiders with the signing, who had hoped to retain Walker. Shortly after the Chiefs announced the deal for Walker, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the Raiders struck a deal with veteran defensive lineman Antonio Smith to take Walker’s place.
Dorsey didn’t have the cap space to be active early, but he moved quickly once the market cooled. Dorsey managed to find an upgrade at defensive end for an affordable price, preserving enough cap space to make other moves. It’s hard not to like this move for the Chiefs.