Kansas City Chiefs’ 2015 Free Agency Outlook: Part 2

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Today, we’re finishing our annual look at the free agency picture for the Kansas City Chiefs. In case you missed it, here’s the offensive side of the equation from last week. This Tuesday afternoon, we’re turning our attention to the defensive side of the football. The Kansas City Chiefs have fewer concerns with that group, but there’s always room for improvement. Given Eric Berry’s illness, DJ’s recovery road, and the need for defensive depth, there’s definitely work to be done.

The four defensive positions I believe the front office will want to shore up are safety, cornerback, inside linebacker, and defensive end. It’s still too early to tell, but Berry’s Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis could force another safety into the starting lineup in 2015. Ron Parker is slated to become a free agent and it’s been reported that he’ll be looking for a new deal that pays him close to $6 million per year. Phillip Gaines and Sean Smith appear to be the incumbent starters at cornerback and Jamell Fleming has another year left on his deal. Conversely, Chris Owens has an expiring contract and could be on his way out after failing to adequately lock down the nickelback role.

Derrick Johnson is reportedly rehabbing well, but returning from an Achilles injury has always come with mixed results. Veteran Joe Mays missed most of the year in 2014 due to injury, proving that concerns about his durability weren’t unfounded. He and defensive end Mike DeVito could both be cap casualties in the near future. Cutting them both frees up roughly $7.7 million in cap space, but it leaves a gap in the depth chart at both positions.

Let’s dive in and look at defensive options for the Chiefs:

Inside Linebacker

1. Rey Maualuga (Bengals)

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The former second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals may be defecting from the Buckeye State in the next few weeks. Maualuga’s been a solid starter since entering the league in 2009, but his six-year career’s been marred by injuries. He’s the kind of physical, two-down ILB the Chiefs need to help fix a leaky run defense that ranked 28th in the league in 2014. Maualuga ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 14th-best inside linebacker in run-stop percentage. He could be a long shot though. There’s a lot of talk about Maualuga getting a new deal from Cincy.

2. Brandon Spikes (Bills)

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Spikes, unlike Rey Maualuga, is much less likely to return to his 2014 team. He has a trio of young linebackers to contend with in Buffalo and despite playing fairly well last season, the organization only committed to him for one year. Spikes is limited in coverage so he’s likely to come off the field on third down, but the Chiefs could use his presence in run support. His play last year earned him a top-20 ranking from PFF for inside linebackers. Spikes plays with the attitude the Chiefs were anticipating from Joe Mays before an injury sidelined him for 8 games.

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