The Kansas City Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five seasons, but sadly there will be one huge piece missing from the dominant defense that has carried the team throughout the season: Charles Omenihu.
Omenihu, who signed a two-year, $16 million contract back in March, has had an up-and-down first season with the Chiefs, to say the least. He started the season by sitting for six games due to a suspension for domestic violence but once he finally took to the field, he made his presence known.
Through 11 regular season games, Omenihu forced 2 fumbles, had 2 pass deflections, and recorded a career-high 7 sacks which came largely between Weeks 13 and 18 when he recorded five games with a full sack and one game (Week 17 vs Cincinnati) with a half-sack.
Throughout his first three playoff games with the Chiefs, Omenihu added another forced fumble after knocking the ball out of Lamar Jackson's (below) hands during his strip-sack midway through the second quarter.
Now that Omenihu is confirmed out for the Super Bowl with a torn ACL, as well as much of the offseason workouts, who should step up for the Chiefs during the biggest game of the season?
Next man up mentality might work, but who makes the most sense?
So far this postseason the Chiefs' defense has lost quite a few defensive studs that have made an impact at their respective positions: Derrick Nnadi was placed on IR with an elbow injury, Willie Gay missed the AFC Championship with a neck injury, and now Omenihu will add to the total with his torn ACL sidelining him against his former team on the biggest stage.
The Chiefs' defensive end depth chart lists Omenihu alongside George "Furious George" Karlaftis, with a rising talent in Mike Danna who started in 16 games this season and recorded 6.5 sacks in those games (4th-most on the team).
Danna and Karlaftis will likely take the brunt of the snaps against the 49ers, but there needs to be more there for Kansas City to feel comfortable. That's where Felix Anudike-Uzomah and BJ Thompson come in.
Anudike-Uzomah, a hometown hero who played two hours away at Kansas State University, was largely panned as a reach when he was selected 32nd overall this past NFL Draft to satisfy the large Kansas City crowd. Since then, Anudike-Uzomah has only recorded 14 tackles and one-half of a sack which came back in Week 2 against Jacksonville.
While most people won't use the word "bust" when it comes to the hometown kid, and rightfully so because it's only been one year behind experienced veterans on the depth chart, there is some nervousness that comes with giving him Omenihu's snaps in Las Vegas.
Then there's Thompson, a fifth-round pick out of Baylor this past season. His only game came in the final week of the season against the Chargers, recording two tackles and that's it. Does his lack of playing time also make Chiefs Kingdom a little unnerved?
Finally, there's Malik Herring, a second-year defensive end who started one game this year. Herring has had the best season out of these three backups, recording 1.5 sacks, a pass deflection and a forced fumble—almost all of which came in the final game of the season against the Chargers.
Do any of these backups give a calm, collected feeling to Chiefs fans or even Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo? If not, then what could Coach Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach do to help fill the large hole Omenihu is leaving?
Could the Chiefs bring back a familiar face?
Before the season began there was a stab-in-the-back feeling that a fan favorite gave to Chiefs Kingdom, coming when Frank Clark signed with Denver, the Chiefs' AFC West rival. After less than two months on the Broncos Clark was cut and signed with his former team, Seattle, after working out for the Chiefs and having KC fans believing he was returning after a slew of tweets from Chris Jones (below).
Now, after Clark was recently cut by Seattle as well, Jones has continued to push for Clark's return to the Chiefs' defensive line--even before Omenihu was out for the Super Bowl.
So could the Chiefs bring back the famous No. 55 for one more game? Would Clark be open to it as well, especially considering he chose Seattle over a possible reunion in Kansas City already this season? If so, Clark could add to his Super Bowl ring total (two) and his postseason sack number (13.5) which currently sits at third-best all-time.
But there are issues. Denver and Seattle did not want Clark due to his lack of production. His age (30 years old) is somewhat concerning considering the oldest defensive end on the Chiefs is 26. His off-the-field issues also plagued his final years with Kansas City.
There's also the chance that Veach and Reid could bring back a familiar face from previous seasons in Melvin Ingram who was only brought back to Miami late in the season for their playoff push which ended in Kansas City.
Ingram is a long shot, same with Clark to be fair, but if the Chiefs don't feel stable with Omenihu's backups they could very likely give the two former Chiefs a call for one more game and one more chance at a ring.
What would you do in this situation? Is there a free agent out there that Kansas City could target that isn't the two former Chiefs? Is there someone else already on the Chiefs' depth chart that could make a big splash? Sound off in the comments.