The former first-round selection could be key to a potentially depleted defensive line to begin the season.
The Chiefs roster as a whole is pretty much set. The roster has been able to keep the core together given their recent championship and playoff success.
The defensive line does have some lingering questions going into its season opener. Defensive end Frank Clark was charged with a felony gun possession earlier this offseason. Without Clark, the Chiefs could be out of its top edge rusher for the beginning of the season.
Of course, no one knows what Clark’s punishment could be yet. However, the Chiefs need to and seem to have a plan in case a suspension is handed down.
The Chiefs may certainly need a piece like defensive end Taco Charlton to step up as a starter. The former first-round selection is certainly there from a talent standpoint.
As a Chief last season, Charlton secured two sacks in his limited appearances. But given his talent level and age, the Chiefs need a piece to become a starter with Clark potentially sidelined.
The 2019 season saw Charlton have a career-high five sacks in a season. The Chiefs could certainly use a consistent level of production from him.
Charlton has one year on his contract and could certainly create buzz to get a multi-year deal elsewhere for more money. The 27-year-old is at the end of the road and needs to live up to his draft value.
The Chiefs were also able to bring back another edge piece to help with depth. The Chiefs re-signed Alex Okafor, who has been a real capable role piece for the defense. His two seasons in Kansas City saw him contribute eight sacks, according to Pro Football Reference. Okafor started nine games in 2019 for the Chiefs as well.
Given his experience and production, the Chiefs could use the 30-year-old to get through a rough patch without Clark on the line.
Besides edge rushing, the interior defensive line has a high ceiling. With defensive tackles Chris Jones and newly acquired Jarran Reed from Seattle. Jones has continued to prove he is one of the best interior linemen and has been working at edge at times this offseason.
Reed played with Clark and the two complemented each other well. Their last season together in 2018 saw the duo combined for 23.5 sacks. Combine that production with the talent of Jones, Charlton, and Okafor and this line could punish some offensive lines.
The Chiefs have also added pieces that can create pressure at linebacker. Second-round selection Nick Bolton from Missouri has shown to be a real explosive piece in the pass and run game in the SEC.
With veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens and second-year Willie Gay Jr., this unit could improve and help alleviate the pressure lost from Clark. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo has utilized tricks with blitzing slot cornerbacks as well.
The Chiefs overall have worked around Clark’s legal troubles. Re-adding Okafor and having Charlton helps the edge position and schematically, they have drafted around the edge to have security everywhere else for years to come.