If the Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl defensive end is found to be guilty, he might have to miss games this upcoming season. Could this be what the Chiefs need to go out and grab Justin Houston?
It’s been an interesting week for the Chiefs since their $104 million DE Frank Clark was arrested for illegal firearm possession in Los Angeles last week, his second arrest in three months, after being pulled over in his Lamborghini SUV with an Uzi in the car with him.
Clark’s attorney, Alex Spiro, claims the submachine gun belonged to his bodyguard which would mean that Clark might not be in any sort of trouble with the NFL or with the Chiefs, but if this case does not go Clark’s way then the Chiefs could possibly be without their highly-paid defensive end for a chunk of the season.
This leaves head coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs in a sticky situation, very similar to the Dallas Cowboys situation four seasons ago when RB Ezekial Elliot’s legal status was up in the air all year which led to him missing six overall games.
So what should the Chiefs do? They have some depth at the DE position, which is the only good news, but that depth could easily show signs of weakness considering who all would have to carry Clark’s workload:
- Taco Charlton: coming off surgery on an ankle fracture, only played seven games last season, unproductive when he was in Dallas
- Tim Ward: entering 2nd season, only played one game (Week 17 vs LAC) and has one sack recorded
- Demone Harris: entering 3rd season, only has seven career tackles, only played five games with KC
- Joshua Kaindoh: a rookie picked in the 4th round (#144 overall); 59 total tackles, one interception (for a TD no less), two pass deflections, and one forced fumble in his four years at Florida State University
Those are just the four immediate back-ups DE’s on the Chiefs’ current depth chart, and the list notably does not include Chris Jones who will be moved to DE “quite a bit” this upcoming season, but the position can obviously be filled by the defensive tackles and linebackers whenever it can be advantageous.
The DE depth chart (above) has some holes right off the bat: there is a sincere lack of experience for three players, two (Charlton & Kaindoh) are coming off severe ankle injuries, and none have proven they can sustain the edge for entire games, let alone entire seasons.
So what’re the Chiefs to do? Chris Jones and the other DTs–Jarran Reed, Derrick Nnadi, Khalen Saunders, and 2020 undrafted free agent Tershawn Wharton–can certainly hold the line without Clark for a short time, but Reid and GM Brett Veach could bring in an experienced DE if they want to be safe and not sorry.
If Clark is found guilty–or if the Chiefs’ front office believe he could be–and is given a suspension that exceeds 4-6 weeks then a replacement edge rusher could very easily be brought in for a tryout or, possibly, a 1-year deal that will secure a solid number two on the roster.
That replacement needs to be experienced enough to be trusted, talented enough to provide results, and smart enough to pick up DC Steve Spagnuolo’s defense and mesh seamlessly.
The first, and only name, that comes to mind is free agent Justin Houston who has spent the last two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts after his 8-year tenure in Kansas City from 2011-2018.
Houston is 32-years old, which is a bit elderly for a starting defensive edge, but he showed that he is still reliable at the position over his past two seasons where he accrued 19.5 sacks (3 for safeties), 21 tackles for a loss, and three forced fumbles.
Compare those to Frank Clark over the past two seasons (22 sacks, 30 TFL, three FF) and you’ll begin to see that Houston might not be such a downgrade if Clark were to miss serious games, in fact, you might even see that Houston might even make a considerable difference for KC.
Even the term ‘downgrade’ seems like too strong of a word considering this is still the same defensive end that almost set a single-season sack record when he was in Kansas City and made four consecutive Pro Bowls (’12-’15)wearing red-and-yellow.
But the ball is in Reid and Veach’s court when all things are said and done, they have been around Houston before and they know what negative factors they would be getting with him whether it be a sour attitude or lack of coherence between Houston and the training staff.
Although at the moment, with a dark cloud looming over Clark and his continuous legal troubles, bringing Houston in for a tryout wouldn’t hurt anyone and it might even spark some sort of resonance among members of #ChiefsKingdom that have not been impressed with Clark’s performance considering his hefty paycheck.