It’s difficult to argue against bolstering the defensive line.
The quiet free agency period for the Kansas City Chiefs was finally broken with a big-name signing. Former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed agreed to a one-year deal with the Chiefs on Sunday evening, adding to an already top-heavy defensive line unit.
2021 will be Reed’s sixth season in the NFL; he’ll turn 29 toward the end of the regular season. He’s been a well-known, constant force for Seattle’s defense over the last three seasons, and now he’ll help the Chiefs improve in an area they underwhelmed in 2020.
To dig deeper, I singled out five things I like about the signing:
1. The talent
Reed is a legitimate, pass-rushing threat from the interior of the defensive line. After starting his career with two seasons totaling three sacks, he exploded in 2018 with 10.5 sacks and 50 pressures — the 11th most of any defensive tackle in the league that season. After a 2019 season affected by suspension, Reed came back in 2020 with 6.5 sacks and 38 pressures in 16 games.
Two of those sacks were recorded against Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen in Week 9 — including a very impressive rep against Bills guard J.R. Sweezy:
When Reed *does* see 1v1’s, he is quite effective – especially late in the game.
High motor and heavy hands clear OL well and has the gas tank to chase down the QB from the backside. Seeing more 1v1’s will produce a player closer to 2018 – although he was still good in 2020. pic.twitter.com/dYhP5V9wSI
— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) March 29, 2021
He’s also performed well as a run defender. He’s a higher-tier defensive lineman that gives the Chiefs the potential of a starting four of Frank Clark, Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi and Reed.
The next point explains how that can be possible.
2. The impact on Chris Jones
As news broke Sunday evening of the signing, ESPN analyst and former NFL player Louis Riddick brought up an interesting point:
Expect to see Chris Jones play more DE on first and second down, stay inside on 3rd down (was used like this in AFC Championship two years ago vs Titans).Reed acquisition going to make #Chiefs DL much better, more multiple.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) March 29, 2021
Jones and Derrick Nnadi have been the early-down starters on the interior of the Chiefs’ line for the past couple of seasons. During the middle of the 2019 season, the Chiefs attempted to line up Jones on the edge of the defensive line, but there was minimal effectiveness. However, there’s a difference with trying the move this time around.
Jones was in a contract year in 2019. His negotiation held him out of offseason workouts leading up to training camp. That doesn’t allow enough time for a first-year staff to teach him a new position. On top of that, there is some hesitation to play him at defensive end before a contract negotiation; he would then be able to demand defensive end money.
Now, both the staff and the player are familiar with each other, Jones is signed to a long-term contract, and they have an entire offseason to work on a possible tweak to his role.
3. The contract
This was the type of deal we initially thought we’d see at the jump of the offseason: Reed signed for one year up to $7 million — only $5 million is guaranteed. The term and the dollar amount make it a low-risk investment, but it makes even more sense with the cap space Kansas City currently has.
We know they struck out in the initial wave of top-tier free agents, but that allows them to sign other talented players at positions with less of an urgent need. The interior of the defensive line was one of the strongest positions on the team prior to free agency, but that should never prevent a team from adding to it if it makes sense.
Maybe this deal doesn’t happen if the Chiefs are tighter in cap room, but they had it. Go spend it on one year of a talented player at one of the most important NFL positions to have depth.
Plus, the one-year deal motivates him to produce and seek a multi-year deal next offseason at 29 years old.
4. The familiarity with Frank Clark
Reed’s best season of his career came in 2018 — the last year he shared a locker room with his new teammate Frank Clark. Clark and Reed played three seasons together in Seattle. In that last season, Reed’s 10.5 sacks combined with Clark’s 13 to add up to 23.5 sacks — one of the highest totals among NFL pass-rushing duos that year.
Like every position in football, there’s importance to the chemistry among players that play in proximity to each other on the field. When Reed and Clark are lined up next to each other at defensive end and defensive tackle for a passing situation, twists and stunts are easier to execute in theory when the players are comfortable with each other’s play-style.
Especially for a position that requires high levels of effort to succeed, it’s an added advantage for a player to play alongside people he wants to give that extra ounce of energy for.
5. The Chiefs sticking to their plan
Per Bob Fescoe of 610 Sports, Reed was a well-sought-after target on the open market.
— Bob Fescoe (@bobfescoe) March 29, 2021
It’s become obvious that the Chiefs and general manager Brett Veach set their aim at particular players they want to add — and don’t panic-sign another player of the same position when it doesn’t work out. They may have missed on Trent Williams and JuJu Smith-Schuster — but they continued down their list of talented players. When they want a particular player, they’ll fight with competing suitors until the very end to lock in their guy. That’s what they did with Reed, and he just happened to sign rather than re-sign, as other players have.
As Pete Sweeney touched on last week, the Chiefs are sticking to a plan that stretches beyond 2021. Instead of eagerly signing other players at the positions they initially struck out on, they decided to get better at another significant spot without sacrificing anything in the long-term.