This offseason, the Chiefs are likely going to bolster the defensive end position with both draft picks and free agent signings—at least one in each category. With Michael Danna and Frank Clark as the only holdovers from a unit that’s also watching Tanoh Kpassagnon, Taco Charlton, and Okafor hit unrestricted free agency, the cupboard is pretty barren for a Super Bowl contender.
While the Chiefs will certainly cross their fingers on further development from the likes of Tim Ward and Demone Harris, it also makes sense that they would seek to replace their losses with new additions—or at least bring back familiar faces in much the same way that the “run it back” offseason began. Last year, Brett Veach got the band back together after a Super Bowl victory, yet it remains to be seen if he’ll again call upon so many known commodities for another run at the title.
For Okafor, the aforementioned surface quantities look good. He’s a veteran who rarely makes mistakes with a known performance floor. You know what you get with Okafor and you get it consistently. While the upside might not be there for some Pro Bowl performer, the reality is that he offers stability in his production on the edge—or at least that’s the hope.
Alex Okafor’s injury history will likely keep him from returning to the K.C. Chiefs
Unfortunately for Okafor, the ability part of “stability” has become a concern at this stage in his career. Last season, Okafor missed games for a hamstring strain in the first month and then an injured reserve stint for a hamstring came at midseason where he missed another three games. In 2019, a pectoral injury ended his season early and he missed six games overall. That’s 11 total games missed due to injury in the last two seasons.
Okafor, who is now 30 years old, has 25 pressures and 8 sacks for the Chiefs over the last two seasons.
The case for coming back
If Okafor is going to play again for the Chiefs, it would be on a very team-friendly deal—think a single season at or near the veteran minimum—which means the cost for the team would be minimal. At that rate, it’s hard to think of a real reason to fight that sort of re-signing. Okafor is a known product and if he’s healthy, he can fill-in quality reps as a rotational pass rusher.
The case for letting go
It’s important to note that Kpassagnon was the man who was earning the starter’s reps opposite Frank Clark in 2020, which means Okafor was already sliding his way down the depth chart coming into last year. What will it mean for another year? Okafor’s best years are behind him and it’s hard to see what he would provide that would be worth standing in the way of giving those 20 or 30 snaps per game to a younger prospect like Tim Ward to see what he could do instead.
The likelihood of a return: 5 percent
Last year, the Chiefs and Okafor worked out a contract restructuring that kept him in K.C. for the 2021 season but it also cut out the third and final year of his original contract. Now that the deal is over, it’s hard to imagine the Chiefs want to tack on another season of service. He helped the Chiefs win a Super Bowl and he helped bolster the team’s pass rush during some transitional years under Steve Spagnuolo. Now is the time for the team to allow younger pass rushers to find their footing instead of handing those rotational reps to Okafor.