KC Chiefs: Mike Danna deserves an extension and no one has noticed

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

For all of the talk about contract extensions these days for the Kansas City Chiefs—from Chris Jones to L'Jarius Sneed—there's actually another deserving player, a defender even, heading into a contract year who is barely getting noticed: Mike Danna.

A contract isn't always about who has earned further financial incentives on the field. It's about keeping the books balanced, fielding a competitive team, positional value, and more. That means even deserving players are allowed to walk sometimes to other franchises with more money to offer. Just because Mike Danna has been better than expected and is hitting free agency doesn't necessarily mean he should be given an extension. But we believe he's one of the few who should be locked up shortly.

For the sake of review, Danna was the Chiefs' fifth round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Michigan, He was a one-year rotational defender for the Wolverines after starring for Central Michigan as a dynamic pass rusher. His lone season in the Big Ten was hardly a head-turner for scouts with only 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble after putting up 8.5 at CMU the previous season.

For those in the know, however, Michigan coaches raved about him as a sponge of a prospect, a player hungry to know anything and everything from his leaders. Michigan also asks players to play all over the defensive front, which meant Danna wasn't some full-time edge rusher who even had the chance to put up such numbers. Instead, he was learning a foundation that would make him even better for the long term at the cost of a tad more production.

Danna went that whole pre-draft season without an invite to the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine or a pro day performance due to the coronavirus, but that likely gave Chiefs scouts a headstart on a player they were hip to. Chiefs knew they had solid contributor in Danna, who'd been hidden behind Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye—two first-round picks—along with Josh Uche.

In the beginning of his time with the Chiefs, Danna displayed modest production as a pass rusher and struggled a bit more as a run defender on a few hundred rotational snaps. He took a real leap forward in snaps with over 500 in 2021 as the Chiefs leaned on him more as a rotational edge, but it was 2022 where he really showed his range. Not only did he set a career-high in pressures (35) and sacks (5), but he did so in 60 less snaps than the year before.

The transition from coaches might tell the story here, but defensive line coach Joe Cullen started moving Danna inside for the first time in his career. He's switch inside at times on special rush packages and even lined up in the nose tackle spot for the first handful of snaps in his pro career. Run defense is still not his specialty, but that's not why he's on the field either.

The Chiefs' personel moves this offseason speak volumes about Danna's projected future. They went out and invested two first-round picks in the last two years and signed Charles Omenihu to a solid contract in free agency this year because the need is there. If coaches had a vision for Danna's ability to morph into an every-down edge setter, they would have included that in their plan of attack this offseason.

That said, it doesn't mean Danna doesn't deserve another contract. It's hard to find reliable contributors on the edge, and it would be smart for another team to force the Chiefs' hand here. But if the Chiefs are savvy, they'll find a way to remind Danna that he's capable of both making money and winning Super Bowls as long as he remains with K.C. If Brett Veach could find a way to bring back Danna for another 1-2 years on $5-6M annually, it'd be a deal worth making.

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