Assembling a championship-caliber team with players who fit the organization sometimes takes years to accomplish. Organizations most often pursue players who they feel are “right for the team,” whether on the field, in the locker room, or ideally a combination of both. The recipe most often includes a pinch of brilliance, a teaspoon of luck, and a tablespoon of faith in the GM and scouting department. Brett Veach had a vision that he and his staff strategically fulfilled, and the Chiefs brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Kansas City after fifty years.
Now comes the difficult part, which is keeping this unit together for another run…. or several. You know the saying, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Chiefs found the combination of players who believe in one another and put the team and organization ahead of their individual accomplishments. This championship group constructed relationships, established and enforced a family atmosphere, and came together more and more as the season progressed. Even when fans, social media, and others lost faith in the direction of the team at times, the Chiefs persevered with continued focus, preparation, and their eyes on the grand prize.
Regardless of the off-season overhaul of the defense, from a new Defensive Coordinator and staff to the various free agents now wearing the red, white, and gold, the defensive unit fell under fairly heavy scrutiny at various points during the season. Impatience and perhaps not understanding the time and process necessary to bring about cohesiveness, overshadowed the week-to-week progress. But we consistently witnessed different players step up, accept the challenges, and make strong impacts at critical moments. By the end of the regular season and throughout the playoffs, the Chiefs defense was as relentless as their explosive offensive unit. Every challenge that surfaced was accepted and conquered.
When discussing specific players who stepped up at critical moments, Bashaud Breeland and Mike Pennel are certainly worthy of such discussion. Both are currently unrestricted free agents, though it could be argued that both could be the Chiefs best defensive investments this off-season. The status of Chris Jones has rightfully garnered a great amount of discussion and attention, but the Chiefs cannot lose sight of others who can contribute at a high level.
The former Clemson Tiger CB was brought to Kansas City in 2019 to help a secondary in need of depth and playmakers. Throughout the regular and post-season, the 6-year-pro amassed 66 tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss, 3 INT’s, and 2 fumble recoveries. Breeland played in all 19 contests and averaged 84% of all defensive snaps. In five contests, he logged 100% of the total defensive snaps. He drew a fair amount of negative attention in Week 5 against Indianapolis when he recorded 4 penalties (3 defensive holding, 1 pass interference) totaling 68 yards. However, he was flagged just 6 more times the remainder of the season.
In comparison, Chris Harris, whose name has been thrown around a little in terms of a potential addition to the Chiefs, logged 56 tackles, 1 tackles-for-loss, 1 INT, and 0 fumble recoveries. Not having the benefit of an extended season, Harris played in 16 contests and averaged 99% of all defensive snaps. In 10 of those contests, he played 100% of the defensive snaps. He totaled 5 penalties for a combined 29 yards.
Harris, who is entering his 9th season at 30 years of age, has a market value of 3 years at $33 million, averaging $11 million per year. Breeland, entering his 7th season at 28 years of age, just finished off a 1-year deal at $2 million. Uncertain of his projected market value, Breeland may demand far less money and continue to perform at a comparable level as some of the more notable free agent CB’s. Free agency has consumed four CB’s from the Chiefs 2019 roster, and Breeland’s return could assist the Chiefs with depth issues and allow them to pursue additional help through the draft.
Considering the uncertainty of Chris Jones’s situation, Pennel is another potential investment the Chiefs could consider for this upcoming season. Since signing with the Chiefs in Week 8, Pennel made an immediate impact within the Chiefs defense. Playing an average of just 27% of the total defensive snaps, Pennel’s presence was solid while being involved in 31 total tackles. The resurgence of the Chiefs defense in terms of stopping the run was noticed immediately once Pennel was added to the rotation. The undrafted DT out of Colorado State-Pueblo is entering his 7th season at 28 years of age. Entering free agency following a 1-year contract of $805,000, Pennel and the Chiefs are reportedly arranging a meeting to discuss a contract in hopes of keeping him in Kansas City.