The Kansas City Chiefs need help at linebacker. So what exactly is the situation right now?
In his third season as a Chief, Anthony Hitchens put together his most consistent campaign. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has always a kind word when he talks about him. Indeed, Hitchens’ contribution to the defense as the mike linebacker can’t be minimalized.
He’s a leader and he is showing the way to the rookie Willie Gay Jr., who appeared during the regular season in all 16 games and played 25% of the total defensive snaps — and 55% of the special teams.
In the end, Gay piled up 39 total tackles, three passes defended, a forced fumble, and one sack. His athleticism and explosiveness are exceptional and he impressed many observers last season.
In fact, a few positions do need to be filled in during this offseason, Anthony Hitchens and Willie Gay are set to return at linebackers this year, but it does not seem to be enough. Does anybody miss Derrick Johnson? I do! So let’s see the top three free-agent linebackers the Chiefs could take a look at to help the existing players.
Linebacker K.J. Wright is a very consistent player in the league. The former Seahawks LB finished the season strong with the eighth-best overall grade among linebackers at 75.3. His best asset is being a solid all-around player at the position. With the presence of freshly drafted Jordyn Brooks in the team, KJ Wright is basically seeing his replacement.
Another option at the linebacker position is B.J. Goodson. He played a career-high 937 snaps in 2020, and his 66.0 overall grade ranked 24th among NFL linebackers. Goodson is very strong, a sure tackler, and a solid overall player who should get a look at from the Chiefs staff. He had a great season and postseason with the Browns having had a consistent performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That is a player you can lean on.
And finally, Eric Wilson could be another solid player for the Kansas City Chiefs. He had a great 2020 season in coverage, grading at 65.5, good for 27th among linebackers. Wilson brings plenty of athleticism but he had hardship as a run defender. Will it be the right player for the Chiefs?
There is still the possibility of a late draft pick for an LB, and a few players like Emmanuel Smith and Omari Cobb were signed to reserve/future deals following the season. That should reinforce the position and help Hitchens, Gay, O’ Daniel among others.