Analysis Opinion

5 defensive players to target in 2020 free agency

For the first time in 50 years, the Kansas City Chiefs aren’t looking for a missing piece, they are looking to reload. I’ve looked at a handful of guys on the defensive side who can help the Chiefs make it back to the Super Bowl.

Cory Littleton, MLB

Cory Littleton is a MLB who spent the last four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. Littleton was an undrafted free agent in the 2016 draft who has turned into one of the league’s top middle linebackers.

He’s undersized at his position at 6’3 and only 225 pounds at his heaviest. His combine numbers were not impressive, but the game isn’t played by numbers. On the field, he’s led the Rams in tackles the last two seasons. He’s a great cover corner who has 26 passes defended and six interceptions.

A contract for Littleton is likely to be in the $10 to $12 million range per season. That is a high price for a player who is undersized and spent the last four years in a 3-4 defense. But a player with his ability, smarts, and attitude is a player any defense would be happy to have.

Joe Schobert, MLB

Joe Schobert is a 26-year-old MLB from the Cleveland Browns. Originally drafted in the fourth round as a 3-4 outside linebacker, he moved to a 4-3 MLB in his second year.

Unlike Littleton, Schobert is the token MLB size at 6’1, 245. After being drafted by the Browns in 2016 he spent most of his rookie season as a backup but exploded in 2017. He tied for the league lead in tackles (144) and made the Pro Bowl.

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2017, he’s averaged 126 tackles, two interceptions, nine pass defenses, and two fumbles a season.  He hasn’t missed a game in his four-year career and would be a solid upgrade to the Chiefs’ linebacker core. The downside is Schobert is looking for big money so he may be out of their price range.

Jarran Reed, DT

Jarran Reed is an interesting defensive tackle coming from the Seattle Seahawks. He is a mixed bag player that is likely a boom or bust signing.

Reed is a big presence in the interior bringing a solid combination as a run stuffer and pass rusher. He is most consistent at stopping the run where at 6’3 and 306 pounds he’s hard to move out of a lane. He’s recorded 156 tackles in his short career; a solid number for a DT.

His pass rush is boom or bust. In 2018 he recorded 10.5 sacks, second on the team behind only Frank Clark. That is a monster season for a DT but, unfortunately, he’s only recorded five sacks in his other three seasons combined. The ability is clearly there, but can it be unlocked is a big question for any team who wants to sign him.

The elephant in the room with Reed is the six-game suspension he served this past season. It involved an alleged domestic violence incident in 2017, an incident he has denied from the start. This incident and underperforming 2019 is likely to drive down Reed’s price tag. He could even be willing to sign a one-year prove-it deal that could fit right in the Chiefs’ budget depending on what they do with Chris Jones.

Mackensie Alexander, CB

Mackensie Alexander is a cornerback from the loaded Minnesota Vikings secondary. He is a young corner who was having his best season as a pro before a late-season knee injury landed him on injured reserve.

Alexander has been mostly used as a slot corner in the Vikings system but has the talent to go outside. His stats aren’t amazing with just two interceptions and 21 pass deflections in four seasons but with the Vikings stats are hard to come by. There is a lot of talent there and Alexander was routinely a guy to pick on as the lesser of the evils, but he held his own in coverage.

Where I like Alexander the best is his linebacker mentality at the cornerback position. He is not afraid to lay the wood on any ball carrier. He is a player that I believe can be versatile and do anything Steve Spagnuolo would ask of him.

His one downside is he does have injury issues that seem to pop up every season. The small meniscus tear was his most severe injury but he’s had something every season. Whenever someone misses a game or two every season it’s a pause for concern.

Chris Harris Jr, CB

Chris Harris Jr is a familiar name to Chiefs fans from his nine years with the Denver Broncos. He’s a veteran corner who at one point was a top-five player at his position in the league.

Harris’s resume speaks for itself: Four trips to the Pro Bowl, First-team All-Pro, two time Second team All Pro, and ranked 86th in the NFL Top 100 Players of 2018. Despite all of those accolades, he doesn’t get the publicity as other shutdown corners like a Jalen Ramsey. Don’t let that lack of press fool you, Harris is a shutdown corner of the highest caliber.

Despite being 30 years old and coming off a broken leg in 2018, Harris was a great corner last season. He is likely to be an expensive signing in the $10 to $12 million range per season. But he has spoken recently on how good he believes the Chiefs are as a destination. Throw in the fact he went to college at the University of Kansas and there is a chance to get him signed to a reasonable contract. He wants to win another Super Bowl or two before he calls it quits.

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