Ranking the 2014 Impact of the Kansas City Chiefs' Free-Agent Signings so Far
Last season, most general managers (GM) lined free-agency’s talent pool—reel in hand—hoping to land the occasional big fish. Kansas City Chiefs GM and Duke Nukem doppelgänger John Dorsey, per my imagination, casually approached said get-together, plopped a suction hose into the water, flipped a switch, lit a Cuban and called it a day.
Unlike a year ago, the (seeming) bulk of 2014’s talent pool isn’t siphoning out to the Red Sea, though. If anything, the opposite holds true, with the Chiefs thoroughly filtering their search results and signing only a handful of foreign faces. A slew of savvy veterans, meanwhile, bid farewell to Kansas City.
But remember this: Those departures included a group of one-year wonders whose names were, at this point last spring, every bit as obscure as the current crop of newcomers.
And while some of the incoming additions will remain faces in the crowd, others will become household names, paving a path of lasting impressions along the way.
Statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
5. Cory Grissom, NT
Unfortunately for Cory Grissom, the injury bug follows him like a lost puppy. It's a theme that stems from his college days and trailed him into the NFL, with an IR designation derailing his rookie season (2013).
On tape, the 316-pounder, when healthy, boasts enough lower-body strength to drive opponents backward and create penetration. Meanwhile, his upper-body strength lets him control blockers' positioning, allowing him to dictate angles at the line of scrimmage.
The downside? Grissom's fundamentals can waver between sound and sloppy. When keeping his pad level low, his skill set (namely, his power) shines. Otherwise, he tends to let blockers secure leverage underneath his pads, often resulting in a virtual stalemate. Grissom also needs to expand his arsenal of pass-rushing moves.
That being said, make no mistake: He has more potential than the average run-of-the-mill practice squad talent. But if rehab continues to shroud his schedule, Grissom will find himself back in the unemployment line sooner rather than later.
4. Jeff Linkenbach, G
Don't set yourself up for disappointment; Jeff Linkenbach, barring a career breakthrough, isn't the second coming of Geoff Schwartz.
He's an athletic lineman who can rotate between guard and tackle, and he's capable of lining up either side of center—that's where the similarities end.
If he hopes to vie for a starting consideration, Linkenbach's best opportunity resides at right guard. However, throughout his four-year career, he has proven to be slightly more consistent on the opposite end.
When John Dorsey recruited him, he saw an experienced, versatile second-stringer who, when disaster strikes up front, doubles as a one-stop solution.
As of now, though, Rishaw Johnson should be (slightly) favored to fill the vacancy at right guard, but more competition will undoubtedly grace the roster prior to OTAs.
3. Chris Owens, CB
The signing of Chris Owens may not garner a lot of attention, but by the end of the year, it'll prove to be an overlooked but vital addition.
Owens is a slot corner who is tougher than his 5'10", 182-pound frame suggests. He can effectively jam wideouts of comparable size, and even if he whiffs at the line, the sixth-year pro is gifted with enough agility and recovery speed to remedy the error.
Throughout 2013, Owens limited receivers to 7.8 yards per catch—a feat that only two corners (who partook in at least one-fourth of their team's defensive snaps) managed to best.
On Sundays, the roster's newest name will allow Brandon Flowers to continue covering targets outside of the hash marks, as opposed to sliding No. 24 inside and tasking backups with shadowing the vertical threats.
2. Joe Mays, ILB
This much is certain: At least one of Joe Mays' tackles have caused you to curl up like a wounded caterpillar and cringe—take a glimpse at his scrapbook.
For instance, one hit that clouds local memories occurred during an onside kick in the 2010 season. The 28-year-old bolted out of the gates like the world's most ill-intentioned greyhound, thwacking Tony Moeaki and divorcing from his senses, resulting in Dwayne Bowe walking into a round of human Jenga.
As if that run-in didn't make his presence felt, Mays reintroduced himself to Moeaki by way of another bone-shivering collision just three weeks later.
Here's a new one: Mays severed Schaub's ear.
Say what you want, but if someone made my left ear plural, I wouldn't be picking daisies on 3rd-and-6 either. A mangled earlobe translates to Pocket Paranoia 101, and happy feet tend to bring about hasty decision-making.
Lastly, the above video punctuates Mays' reign of divisional tyranny, showing him abruptly bolting through the line and rattling Ryan Mathews' soul like a maraca.
However, like most interior thumpers, limited quickness and athleticism tag him as a liability in coverage, and he's also prone to occasionally over-pursue in run support.
Mays is, above all else, a two-down run-stuffer who adds another dose of nastiness to Kansas City's linebacking corps.
1. Vance Walker, DE
When he's not summoning demons while cooking or demanding groups of kangaroos be called “kangacrews," Vance Walker can, depending on the situation, anchor as a road block or hound as a quarterback hunter. He’s a 296-pound Transformer, more or less. (Also, if you’re a Chiefs fan and not following him on Twitter, you’re doing it wrong.)
Being that Pro Football Focus' (PFF) database crowds all defensive tackles together, comparing Walker’s stats to those of someone like Tyson Jackson can be misleading—a 4-3 lineman (which is what Walker had previously played as) will always hold a natural advantage over his 3-4 counterparts. Having said that, PFF's Nathan Jahnke notes:
Vance Walker was one of the few defensive tackles to record at least one pressure in all 16 games this season. While he only had three sacks, his 41 pressures was tied for eighth most among all defensive/nose tackles.
While the bookend will transition to a 3-4, Bob Sutton’s defense echoes the same kind of attacking, gung-ho mentality that Walker enjoyed at Georgia Tech. At 6’2”, he totes a relatively low center of gravity, which, when combined with his lengthy arms, make for an ideal fit as a 3-4 defensive end.
Walker possesses enough power to disrupt backfields via bull rush, while also flaunting enough lateral quickness to converge and plug neighboring lanes. And as far as intangibles are concerned, he’s a consummate overachiever due to his blue-collared work ethic, regularly going the extra mile to ensure defensive stops.
Perhaps more importantly, the 26-year-old can also apply quarterback pressure on a relatively routine basis—something that, on the heels Tamba Hali’s and Justin Houston’s injury-induced absences, the team sorely lacked throughout the latter half of 2013.
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