The NFL Draft is three weeks away, so we’re running out of time to wildly speculate about prospects. Today we take a look at the inside linebackers in the 2014 class.
Inside linebacker doesn’t rank particularly high on the Chiefs immediate needs but time is coming quickly to a day where it may be. Consider Derrick Johnson will turn 32-years-old in November and has only two years remaining on his contract. How much will the Chiefs want to pay a soon-to-be 34-year-old linebacker in March of 2016?
Bad news is there is not a lot of great fits for a project replacement for Johnson in this draft. There are a couple of candidates who the Chiefs could have a shot at drafting but both come with more questions than answers as prospects. The likelihood of finding Johnson’s successor in the 2014 draft seems low.
What the Chiefs could find is a way to open up future salary cap space by finding role linebackers. The Chiefs have spent millions on linebackers Akeem Jordan and Joe Mays in the last two free agent periods. Opening up the cap space by having a draft pick and Nico Johnson battle for the role could help the Chiefs afford some of their more immediate needs, like re-signing Justin Houston and Alex Smith.
It should be noted the Chiefs defensive scheme is in a bit of a flux. In the playoff loss to the Colts, the Chiefs played in a 2-3-6 over 85% of the time. This means Johnson was on the field by himself for most of the game, and did not have a traditional second middle linebacker next to him. This indicates not only the importance of Johnson, but how spending $6 million on Joe Mays over two seasons isn’t the most efficient use of their cap space.
Creating depth and competition in the middle would give the Chiefs a better and cheaper solution to their second middle linebacker spot. And if that player happens to be someone who could develop into Johnson’s replacement, it would be extra useful.
So who are some inside linebackers who may make sense for the Chiefs? Let’s take a look.