The 2022 NFL trade deadline has come and gone and while the Kansas City Chiefs did make a move for former New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney, the team did not make a move for a pass-rusher despite multiple reports linking them to big names such as Jaguars star Josh Allen.
While players like Josh Allen or Carolina’s Brian Burns may have been pipe dream scenarios, it’s a tad bit surprising and disappointing that the team didn’t make any moves to help shore up the defensive line.
Of course, we have to acknowledge that the Chiefs can’t force a trade to happen, and it is possible they tried for a big name and couldn’t get anyone to bite. However, you’d also have a hard time convincing me that there was no one out there that they could have brought in.
Regardless, it looks like the Chiefs might just be rolling with what they have for the rest of the season unless there’s a free agent to be had that we haven’t heard about. It’s a bold move given not only the fact the pass rush has been lackluster, but also because the team’s depth has already taken a hit as Frank Clark is serving a two-game suspension from the NFL, Tershawn Wharton is likely out for the year with a torn ACL, and Mike Danna is still nursing a calf injury sustained earlier this season.
The inability of the Kansas CIty Chiefs to bolster their pass rush before the NFL’s trade deadline could come back to bite them.
Now, the Chiefs’ pass rush isn’t as miserable as it was last year this time when they traded for Melvin Ingram as they rank 11th in the league in sacks and have applied a decent amount of pressure. At the same time, a lot of their pressure and sacks are coming off blitzes. For example, L’Jarius Sneed is 2nd on the team in sacks with 3.5 sacks and those have come off heavy blitzes which defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has dialed up frequently this year. It shows that the Chiefs aren’t getting enough from their front four.
The issue is even more concerning when you consider the fact the Chiefs have invested in their pass-rush year after year and they still can’t quite get it right. There seems to have been too much expectation put on rookie defensive end George Karlaftis and Frank Clark has been better by his standards but still not what the Chiefs needed from him. Most fans liked the addition of Carlos Dunlap but he has been about average. Essentially, this thing is still just Chris Jones and a bunch of guys. In fact, it’s scary to think what things would look like if Jones wasn’t currently putting together a DPOY-caliber season.
There is a portion of the fanbase that is fine with not using draft picks to try and acquire a pass-rusher because of the notion that the Chiefs are supposedly “playing the long game”. Yet, the Chiefs can still create flexibility for the future and compete for championships. It’s not a one-or-the-other scenario. Looking at how the season has played out so far, the Chiefs sit at 5-2 and the AFC is pretty much there for the taking. They can still compete with the Buffalo Bills who went all in this offseason despite the team’s youth movement. So, why not get that pass-rusher you need if it is the difference between a Super Bowl or not? A move for defensive line help potentially tips the scale in your favor and teams that go far in January and February typically do so because they are able to get to the quarterback.
Each year since 2019, the pass rush has gotten worse and has been a big reason the season turned out the way it did. Though the offensive line was the story in 2020, Tom Brady faced the lowest pressure rate ever in his career in that Super Bowl and we all remember the AFC Championship game last year when Joe Burrow (and the game) quite literally slipped out of Chris Jones’ hands and the pass-rush as a whole didn’t show up.
The current Chiefs pass rush lacks speed and athleticism on the edge and despite marginal moves to try and improve it, it looks pretty much the same. It stings even more knowing that Minnesota Vikings defensive end Za’Darius Smith, who currently leads the league in sacks, is playing on one of the best deals in football right now and the Chiefs were reportedly heavily interested in the offseason. Instead, the team chose to go with yet another year of Frank Clark and leaned on a rookie to get production.
A trade for someone may have taken some big investment, but the idea that the Chiefs shouldn’t allocate resources mid-season to improve the defense and pass rush because they’re “re-tooling” is a bit ridiculous. You have a prime year of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce isn’t getting any younger. Why sign players like JuJu Smith-Schuster to a one-year deal if you aren’t serious about winning in that one year? Something to think about.
Maybe this is all being blown out of proportion and the Chiefs will be fine, but if they lose in the playoffs and part is due to the lack of pass rush, it will be hard to forget the lack of movement at the deadline from Brett Veach and company.