Over the past three seasons, the Chiefs’ D-line has been the rock of its defensive success. Even in the darkest days of the 2011 season, the big boys up front were able to consistently shut down the run. In 2013, the unit jumped ahead, largely due to the development of NT Dontari Poe and DE Tyson Jackson — both questionable picks from the previous regime that took a while to hit their stride.
But while Poe and TJax were putting on a show, the team’s third defensive end, Allen Bailey, quietly showed this season that he has has been developing as well. With limited resources and needs in other areas, I think it’s time that Bailey gets his chance to start.
In 2013, Bailey continued to play a depth role on the D-line, and actually got fewer snaps in the rotation that he would have for most other NFL teams as Poe rarely came off the field, and even TJax developed into a three-down player. Nonetheless, this season was by far his most productive with 30 tackles, a sack and two tipped passes. In his only game as a starter — the JV game against San Diego that was won by the NFL Referees Association — he shined.
Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of +4.1 for the game, in which he led the team with 9 tackles. Only DE Mike DiVito had a better one-game tackle total for a Chiefs D-lineman last year with 10 against the Bills. In a sign of his progression, Bailey also led the D-line in tackles the week before against Indianapolis, and PFF also noted strong performances by him in Week’s 5 and 12.
Of course, a few good performances does not a season make and Bailey has big shoes to fill (not just literally) if Jackson departs. TJax ended the season with PFF’s 6th highest rating among interior D-linemen that are set to hit free agency. Also, at 28, he is one of the youngest high-end veterans available at the position. In other words, even with money being no issue, it will be hard for the Chiefs to hold onto Jackson, and with good reason.
But, money is an issue, and while Jackson admirably took a pay cut in the past, I think his agent would resign if he tried to limbo low enough to stay with the Chiefs. His current salary of $4.2 million is more than the total cap space that the team has available, and, while few will deny he was overpaid, the Chiefs can’t even afford to bring him back at half price and still fill other holes.
So, beyond the fact that I think Bailey is deserving of a shot as a starter, promoting him may be necessary as a business decision. At 24, he has his best football ahead of him and is in a contract year, so he will be motivated to make the most of his opportunity. Of course, promoting him will create a need for depth at DE, but the team should be able to bring in a sub-million-dollar player or a mid-round pick to do the job. Also, DE Mike Catapano showed some stuff in that Week 17 game, so I don’t think depth should be an urgent worry there.
So what do you think Addicts? Is Bailey ready for the big time?