Chiefs Roster Evaluation: Linebacker remains a position of need
By Jake Kokoris
What we learned
The first thing is more a confirmation of what many Chiefs suspected: Anthony Hitchens is simply not producing at a level consistent with his contract. This year was a chance to highlight his skill set and demonstrate his value, but his presence, once again, was never consistent enough. Hitchens’ struggles were curious because he is a solid one-way mover, capable of controlling small zones of the field.
Because of Hitchens’ contract, he’ll be a member of the team next year. It’s just a matter of his role. Maybe after a year in Spags’ defense, he’ll demonstrate the kind of force he was brought in to be. But there is no reason to expect much improvement heading into next season.
The second thing we learned is that Reggie Ragland has played his last down for the Chiefs. This one is pretty simple: He saw his production and snap count dwindle significantly, and he’s becoming an unrestricted free agent this year. Ragland simply didn’t fit Spags’ style of defense, and will more than likely suit up for another team next year.
The third thing we learned is that the Chiefs will invest in linebacker this offseason. They won’t be breaking the bank for a guy like Cory Littleton, but they’re going to go in for a cheaper veteran to shoulder the load. Look for the Chiefs to take a linebacker within the first three rounds of the draft, too.
The fourth thing we learned is that the jury is still out on guys like Dorian O’Daniel and Ben Niemann. With Darron Lee hitting free agency, along with Ragland’s likely exit, we may see Niemann and O’Daniel in more featured next year.
This year’s Super Bowl showed one thing: the Chiefs don’t need every positional level to be elite in order to win. However, assessing each position group one by one shows us that there is plenty of room for improvement at linebacker. The issue moving forward will be addressing that need against potential cap constraints, but Veach and co. have shown consistently that they are willing to make hard decisions in order to improve the team.