Nov 15, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) fumbles the ball under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle Jaye Howard (96) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Chiefs have a lot of decisions to make in the offseason. The Chiefs have multiple starters on defense that will be free agents in 2016, including potential high-priced players like Sean Smith and Eric Berry. The Chiefs won’t be able to keep everybody, especially when Derrick Johnson, Husain Abdullah and Tamba Hali will be hitting the market as well. It’s a testament to not only Dorsey but also former general manager Scott Pioli for building such a talented defensive unit over the years. This is such a talented group of players but unfortunately it can’t stay together forever, so tough decisions must be made.
One thing to keep in mind is how important it is to have a strong defensive line in a 3-4 system. It’s their responsibility to take on multiple blockers and create lanes for the linebackers to rush through, as well as clogging holes in running lanes and even getting pressure against the QB when the situation calls for it. It’s hard to find players that succeed in all of these ways.
The Chiefs are lucky to not only have Howard but also Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey to create one of the most formidable DLs in the league. It’s a young unit (Poe is only 25, Bailey 26) and one that should continue to not only maintain their current success but potentially get even better in the coming years.
Let’s not forget the state of the DL going forward. Mike DeVito is a free agent in 2016 and has had multiple concussions this season, so there’s no guarantee that the team would bring him back. There is potential in rookie sixth-round pick Rakeem Nunez-Roches, but I believe he is at least a year away from being a solid contributor. Backups Nick Williams and David King will also be free agents, so the depth will have to be rebuilt as well. Williams and King are back-end of the roster guys so they could both return, but I don’t think anyone is exactly clamoring for them to be long-term options.
Howard is one of those players that, now given a chance at starting and playing significant snaps each week, can be a game-changer when on the field. I feel he is still ascending and has yet to reach his full potential and the type of player that the John Dorsey and the Chiefs cannot afford to let go. I’m hoping that he, Poe and Bailey are anchoring this defense for years to come.