After DC Steve Spagnuolo announced the likely movement of DT Chris Jones to the outside of the line, there is now a new list of storied players that he has to live up to, but who in Chiefs history would round out the top five defensive ends?
With the 2021-22 NFL season slowly approaching day-by-day, there is all sorts of news coming out of every camp around the league, whether it be the turmoil that Green Bay is dealing with or the QB competition in Washington and a separate QB situation happening in New England.
One bit of information that has come out of the Kansas City Chiefs camp is that defensive tackle Chris Jones, the longtime face of “Sack Nation”, will be playing on the outside of the line “quite a bit” this upcoming season.
This news, coming from defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo who is entering his 3rd season with the Chiefs, means that the offseason additions of DT Jarran Reed (who has 19 sacks in three season) and rookie Joshua Kaindoh (who had 16.5 TFL & eight sacks in his four seasons at Florida State) look like they might be working out during the initial camps–not to mention the great performance from undrafted rookie Tershawn Wharton last season.
Jones, who has 40.5 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions (one of which was returned for a pick-6) in his five seasons in KC, received a four-year contract extension worth up to $85 million last Summer and now it would appear he will get more chances to increase his total pass deflections number, which currently sits at 33 with 15 coming from games where he was listed as an edge rusher.
So Jones already has experience in the field of edge-rushing and will likely thrive in the position as he has in the past, especially with the vigilant Frank Clark and the resurging Taco Charlton helping him out on the other side of the line.
But the announcement of the change by coach Spagnuolo made me ponder just who else in Chiefs history has made the position their own and really cemented their place in Kansas City history by being the very best edge rusher and getting the most pressure on the outside.
Who does Jones have to look up to when he’s flipping through the film sitting in Arrowhead’s basement? Whose shoes does he have to really fill and bring his own ‘swagger’ to?
If there were a top-5 list of Chiefs defensive ends, it would probably look something like this:
5. Arthur Barry “Art” Still (1978 – 1987)
The former All-American from the University of Kentucky, who the Chiefs’ picked 2nd-overall in the 1978 draft, was a four-time Pro Bowl selection as the designated left defensive end when the Chiefs were definitely not known for their defense.
His allegiance to a mediocre Kansas City squad and his skill level which brought national attention to those Chiefs is the main reason he is on this list. Not only that, his induction into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1998 boosts his status as an all-time great for Kansas City.
In 1982 the NFL made sacks an official statistic but before then, in 1980, Still recorded 14.5 sacks for the first time in his career and was voted All-Pro and voted to the All-AFC team for the first time in his career. In 1984 he sacked the QB another 14.5 times in one season, marking the fourth and final time he would make the Pro Bowl.
Still started every game for the Chiefs for nine of the ten seasons he was in KC, accumulating 42.5 (official) sacks and 11 fumble recoveries before he went to Buffalo for his final two NFL seasons (’88-’89).
4. Jerry Mays (1961-1970)
Mays was originally a Dallas Texan before the team relocated to Kansas City, starting 126 straight games for the two teams at two positions: defensive tackle for his first three seasons and then defensive end from 1965-1970.
Mays was one of the greatest AFL players of all time and helped the Chiefs become the winningest team in AFL history, winning three AFL titles and the Chiefs first Super Bowl.
Mays was so good at his role that he was voted All-AFL first or second-team in eight of the nine seasons that he started every game (’62-’70), not only that he was voted to six AFL All-Star games at two positions–two at DT and four at DE.
And while Mays is known as one of the best defensive ends of all time, and was voted into the Chiefs’ Ring of Fame in 1972, he has notably been snubbed from Canton, Ohio, and the NFL Hall of Fame due to his career being AFL-centric.
His stats don’t speak to his status on this list, only racking up one interception and two fumble recoveries with one being returned for a TD, but his 67 total sacks as a Texan/Chief and his Super Bowl IV performance (one sack, four tackles) are what keep him higher on this list than some of the greatest names in Kansas City’s history books.
3. Jared Allen (2004-2007)
Allen was drafted by the Chiefs in the 4th round in the 2004 draft but ended up playing like a defensive stud that looked like a first-round pick during his 61 games in Kansas City.
His comical attitude, fun hairstyles, and the way that he carried himself created waves across #ChiefsKingdom which made him one of the fans’ favorites on the field. Paired with his extreme talent led to some great times for Allen in KC, from his league-leading 15.5 sacks in his final year as a Chief to his two touchdown catches in the same year.
Allen’s career was filled with some great times after his stint in Kansas City, causing him to likely identify as a Minnesota Viking if he ever gets inducted into Canton, but the first four seasons of his career were special and made him a household name and a high-value free agent for the rest of his time in the NFL.
It’s his tenacity at the edge position as well as his fun-loving attitude off the field that brings him to this list and it’s his talent that keeps him here even if Chris Jones excels at the edge position as he has at the tackle position.
2. Tamba Hali (2006-2017)
I know what you’re probably saying, “Hali played as a linebacker!”, which is true. He did play as the Chiefs premiere outside linebacker from ’09-’15 but when he was drafted 20th overall in the ’06 NFL Draft he was selected as an edge rusher and started his first three seasons as a Chief at the same position.
The 5x Pro Bowler played 177 games for Kansas City, starting all but 20 of them (all coming in his final three seasons), with 47 coming as an edge rusher and the other 130 coming as the right OLB.
The reason Hali is not only on this list but also so high up on it is because of the speed that he demonstrated at the edge position his first few seasons gained the attention of the defensive coaching staff and propelled him into the linebacker spot where he thrived for the rest of his time in the league.
In the end, he gathered two interceptions (one as a DE), 16 pass deflections (six as DE), 33 forced fumbles (10 as DE), and 89.5 sacks (18.5 as DE). On top of all this, he had 596 total tackles (176 as DE) with 105 tackles being for a loss, including a safety, (25 of which were as DE).
Hali was beloved by the Chiefs fanbase and by the Chiefs organization as a whole, when he retired they pulled out all the stops and made sure that Hali felt special.
Because Hali has the second-most sacks in Chiefs’ history, and the second-most forced fumbles in the organization’s history as well, he is second on the list of best edge rushers.
1. Neil Smith (1988-1996)
One of the most notable Chiefs in their storic 62-year history is Smith and his lethality at the edge position. If Derrick Thomas is the proverbial Captain of the Chiefs’ All-Time defense then Smith is the strong Lieutenant standing in the line of fire right behind him.
Smith was drafted 2nd overall in 1988 and spent the first nine seasons of his career as a Chief and still has ties to Kansas City to this day, including the partial ownership of the city’s former Arena Football team, the KC Command.
The Hall of Fame edge rusher went to five Pro Bowls and was voted First Team All-Pro in 1993 after his 15 sack season–just one year removed from his 14.5 sack season–which was just a few of his accolades that he acquired over his life.
Those were just contributions to his 88.5 total sacks as a Chief that came with his 28 forced fumbles (3rd-most in KC history), three interceptions (one for a TD), and 12 fumble recoveries (also bringing one back for a TD).
His name is known throughout Kansas City for good reason, his 503 tackles and vigilance on the field were iconic for fans of the Chiefs and will be remembered throughout Chief history as one of the best defensive stars that will ever come through Arrowhead.
(Honorable mentions: Mike Bell, Eric Hicks, Dee Ford)