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A player that the Kansas City Chiefs had some interest in signing in free agency has struck a free-agent deal with another team.
Melvin Ingram visited the Chiefs during the start of the 2021 free agency period back in March. His visit was productive, but the free agent pass-rusher left without signing a deal. With recent concerns surrounding Frank Clark’s arrests and 2021 season availability, Ingram had been mentioned as a potential option for the team. Now, he’ll be taking his talents to Pittsburgh, signing a one-year deal worth around $4 million on Monday.
So why haven’t the brass in Kansas City gone out and signed a free agent to shore up the pass rush? Here are a couple of reasons why the team is remaining patient:
Frank Clark situation still in flux
AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio
The most recent news about Chiefs DE Frank Clark is that his arraignment has been delayed until October. For now, it looks like Clark will be available to play during Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, but that could change very quickly. The NFL typically waits for any and all criminal proceedings to conclude before issuing a suspension to a player, but they don't necessarily have to wait. A suspension could be issued at any time by the league. The league can also place Clark on the Reserve/Commissioner Exempt List at their discretion, effectively placing Clark on paid leave from the team. This list and its usage has typically has been reserved for violent crimes. If Clark were to be placed on the Reserve/Commissioner Exempt List, that's when the team would probably consider voiding guaranteed money and looking for ways to get out of his contract. The bottom line is that until a suspension is issued or the league informs the team of Clark's placement on the Reserve/Commissioner Exempt List, he's available to practice and play.
Evaluation of young players still in progress
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
To this point, the Chiefs have engaged in what Andy Reid has described as "passing camps." Steve Spagnuolo refers to them as "pajama practices." Basically, the Chiefs aren't too far along in the evaluation process of the players they currently have because they haven't done much "real" football yet. They won't have a good idea until the pads come on for the first time during training camp and they get these guys working on the field against each other at full speed. The outlook for a rookie like Joshua Kaindoh could completely change based on how those first padded practices go. The same goes for a first-year addition such as reserve/future signing Austin Edwards — a player the Chiefs were high on ahead of the 2020 NFL draft.
An expected jump for Year 2 and Year 3 players
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
The Chiefs have a lot of players on the roster who've been rotational pieces in the past. They're not big names, but they could be primed to take a leap in 2021. Players like Tim Ward and Demone Harris have been with the team for three seasons now. They should have a mastery of the playbook and be able to just focus on technique and personal improvement. Then there are also a few players entering their second year in the system such as Mike Danna and Taco Charlton. There seems to be an expectation from the coaching staff and the front office that both of those players will contribute more in 2021. Charlton is fully healthy following an ankle injury that prematurely ended his 2020 season. Danna also dealt with some ticky-tacky injuries during the course of the 2020 season.
There's still time (and players) to add to the room if they want to
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
The start of training camp may seem like a soft deadline to add new players and in some cases it is. Look no further than the addition of Kelechi Osemele last season at the onset of camp. At the same time, the Chiefs don't have to be in a rush to go out and sign a player here. They can still take their time, properly evaluate the team and come away with a good solution to their problems. There are still plenty of free agents out there and available at the position in the event they want to sign someone. Names like Justin Houston and Alex Okafor stand out as they've played for the team before. Then there are guys like Adrian Clayborn and Olivier Vernon who have played for coaches on the Chiefs' staff before. Everson Griffen is still available and appeared to have some juice left in the tank last season. This team has also added future starters in trade previously, with most of those trades coming closer to 53-man roster cut downs and the beginning of the upcoming NFL season. Perhaps that's something that could be on the horizon for the team. Maybe they're not looking for a one-year veteran solution at the defensive end position with Clark's current issues. Maybe they see a way to acquire a young player who is still under contract, could use a change of scenery and would offer a long-term solution. Then there's also a chance that they don't add a new player and someone on the roster rises to the occasion. There are still a lot of possibilities out there — ones that the front office staff will likely work through over the course of the next month and a half leading up to the season.
Update: Chiefs re-sign DE Alex Okafor
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Chiefs moved quickly after Ingram came off the market, re-signing Alex Okafor on a one-year contract. The good news is, this isn't the type of move that should preclude them from making other moves at the position if necessary. [vertical-gallery id=94498]