With the November 2 NFL trade deadline inching closer, trade talks are ramping up around the league. The Kansas City Chiefs are apparently part of some of those talks, with a veteran defender being the most recent player they are interested in acquiring.
The Chiefs are among the teams with a strong mutual interest in veteran pass rusher Whitney Mercilus following his pending release from the Houston Texans, according to Aaron Wilson of SportsTalk 790.
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Why Mercilus Is Being Released
Wilson explained why Houston is opting to part ways with Mercilus, who was drafted in the first round by the Texans in 2012 and has been with the team ever since.
“The Texans are releasing Mercilus, 31, as they continue to go with a youth movement on the defensive line with the team starting defensive ends Jon Greenard, who’s been impressive with four sacks, and Jacob Martin,” Wilson wrote.
Because the Texans announced his release late in the day on Monday, October 18, that gives them a little under 24 hours before they have to officially release Mercilus. That timing is key because it gives teams an opportunity to try and trade for the veteran pass rusher prior to his release, that way they don’t have to compete with other teams to persuade Mercilus once he’s a free agent.
Mercilus is in the second year of a four-year, $54 million deal he signed with the Texans in 2020, per Spotrac. However, the final two years of his contract are voidable, meaning a team can choose to opt-out of his contract and release him without suffering any significant cap penalties beginning in 2022.
Mercilus’ Fit With Texans
Based on the reporting taking place following Kansas City’s Week 6 win over the Washington Football Team, it should come as no surprise that the Chiefs are interested in Mercilus.
PFF’s Brad Spielberger noted on Monday, October 18 that he’s hearing the defending AFC champions are exploring options to bolster their defensive line prior to the deadline, with the Los Angeles Chargers doing the same, potentially putting the two AFC West teams in an “arms race” prior to November 2. But as we mentioned on the same day, it wouldn’t be much of a race due to the fact that the Chargers have a bit more money to spend than Kansas City at this point in the season.
When looking at Kansas City’s financial situation — the team currently has an estimated $1.8 million in available cap space, per Spotrac — you can’t help but notice that two of their top five cap casualties for 2020 live along the defensive line. Defensive end Frank Clark is the team’s biggest cap hit this season at $25.8 million, per Spotrac, and defensive tackle Chris Jones has the fifth biggest cap hit this season at $8.5 million.
Clark and Jones have registered PFF grades of 38.9 and 69.6, respectively, this season. Clark has missed three games this season due to a hamstring ailment and Jones has missed the team’s last two outings due to a wrist injury. Nevertheless, you can see the discrepancy in their production compared to what the team has invested in them financially.
Bolstering the defensive line could help the Chiefs for the remainder of the season. But wanting to add to that unit speaks to how poorly their big investments along the defensive line have panned out this season thus far.
Adding Mercilus would certainly bolster their front seven, but the question that remains is what it’ll take to convince the Texans — or Mercilus if he is released first — to send the veteran Kansas City’s way. Based on Wilson’s report, Houston is trying to get younger, which means they will likely look to add a draft pick by trading away Mercilus, who had an $8.6 million cap hit this season, but only a portion of that will hit the team he winds up with if he is traded away.
If that’s the case, then Kansas City may be better off waiting until Mercilus is a free agent.