The defensive line of the K.C. Chiefs is having no problems making headlines this offseason. The addition of Jarran Reed was a positive signing for the team early on, while Frank Clark’s legal problems have clouded the team’s coverage in recent weeks. Chris Jones is never ignored as one of the league’s most disruptive players up front, and his move outside to defensive end will be one of the bigger preseason plot lines to watch. But one player who has gone overlooked in a lot of the noise is the fact that defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is now in his contract season.
Nnadi is pretty used to playing in the shadows for the Chiefs. The Chiefs offense is the unit that earns the lion’s share of attention. It’s also hard to stand out when there are already two players earning north of $20 million playing along the same defensive front.
Still, the fact that Nnadi is now in his fourth NFL season should not go ignored by Chiefs Kingdom. The rookie deals of every draft pick run four seasons—five, if a first-round pick has his option year picked up—which means Nnadi came into this offseason knowing he has a significant payday ahead of him if he stays healthy and plays his cards right. That tends to be a very motivating factor for players.
What should not be lost in the noise is how a motivated Derrick Nnadi could look in 2021.
The Chiefs selected Nnadi at No. 75 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Florida State. As a former third round pick, he’s already made decent money at the pro level, including a very nice bump this coming season with a cap hit of $2.42 million. That’s much more than last year’s $1.04M total.
There is a ceiling, of course, to what Nnadi can make even in a best-case scenario for him moving forward. After all, we’re not talking about Jones being on the verge of free agency here. Nnadi is a starter in the team’s base defense up front, but he’s a run-stuffing rotational lineman who plays on early downs. Last year, Nnadi played in 43 percent of all defensive snaps for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, a bit of a drop from the 54 percent during his sophomore year.
In short, run-stopping linemen aren’t going to break the bank for a team’s cap in free agency, but from the perspective of the player who’s been making rookie money, there’s still a reason to expect a financial boost.
At this point, Nnadi is going to be a very interesting player in free agency for teams who not only want to utilize his services and strengths but who also believe something more might be in play. Nnadi has been very reliable since coming into the league, having never missed a single game, and he also comes with three deep postseason runs in each of his three NFL seasons. It’s very possible that he enters free agency with three Super Bowl appearances and four conference championship games in his first four years.
It’s also important to note that Nnadi is still growing as a player and should have plenty more production and growth ahead of him, considering that he only recently turned 25 years old.
As the Chiefs look ahead to the 2021 season, there’s a lot of reasons to love what they’re doing along the defensive interior. Jones is going to make life hell for opposing quarterbacks no matter where he’s lined up, and the addition of Reed only bolsters the unit’s effectiveness. But what should not be lost in all of this is how a motivated Derrick Nnadi could look in 2021 as a young, effective, and reliable performer ready to make even more money next offseason.