As one of the few remaining question marks on the roster, the short-term future of the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive end group is especially murky with Pro Bowler Frank Clark now facing up to three years in prison for a felony gun charge.
Another Pro Bowl pass rusher, former Los Angeles Chargers standout Melvin Ingram, has been at the forefront of the mind of Chiefs fans since the 32-year-old free agent left his March 24 visit to Kansas City without a contract. Still unsigned with less than two weeks to go until training camps open across the league, Ingram visited another AFC contender on Monday, July 19 and officially signed a contract before leaving the building.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Ingram is signing a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers following his visit on Monday.
The Chiefs and Steelers are slated to face off in a Week 16 showdown in Kansas City on December 26 — a game that could have AFC playoff implications. In addition to the Steelers and Chiefs, Ingram had also visited the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts in recent months.
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Uncertainty Around Clark Leaves Chiefs in Limbo
During a recent appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show,” Rapoport was asked specifically about Clark’s legal situation. His answer, while painting a gloomy outlook for the 28-year-old edge rusher, had left a glimmer of hope for Kansas City’s chances to lock down a deal with Ingram before the season.
“They have had Melvin Ingram in for a visit. It was about a month or so ago. Usually, when you have a veteran like that who wants real money in for a visit and you don’t sign, that’s a guy you revisit kind of before [training] camp,” Rapoport told The Pat McAfee Show on July 12.
With those hopes now dashed, Kansas City is currently set to roll out a relatively inexperienced group featuring Taco Charlton, Mike Danna, Tim Ward and fourth-round draft pick Joshua Kaindoh among others. Even with Chris Jones expected to see more time outside following the addition of Jarran Reed, edge depth remains a concern heading into training camp.
“The charge is extremely serious. I don’t know enough about the options [Clark] might have to avoid jail time, but I do know that obviously, this is something the NFL is looking at and looking at very seriously,” Rapoport continued. “We’ll see about his availability for the start of the season and beyond. At this point, there’s way more uncertainty than there is certainty for Frank Clark and for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
NFL Data Expert Named KC ‘Logical Fit’ for Ingram
While certainly not the first to connect the dots between the 2012 first-rounder and the reigning AFC champions, NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund believed the match between Ingram and the Chiefs was one worth exploring.
Here is what the NFL data science expert had to say in a July 14 roundup projecting the most logical fits for remaining free agents:
In the games Ingram has played in over the past two seasons, his burst has ranked as high as fourth-fastest among edge rushers, but it hasn’t been a consistent figure, which suggests the injuries have indeed been a factor. In Ingram’s first four seasons, the consistency in his burst metric ranked in the top 10 percent among edge rushers. And his fourth-quarter drop-off (to approximate fatigue) was fifth-lowest in the league. In other words, if Ingram is right, the potential for production is strong.
Frelund believed signing Ingram could net Kansas City up to 0.71 additional wins in 2021, tied with old friend Mitchell Schwartz for the highest mark assigned to any free agent on the list. As has been the case all offseason, the likelihood of Ingram playing in a Chiefs uniform this season likely came down to health and financials.
With approximately $8.3 million in spending power, Kansas City currently ranks 21st in the league in available salary cap space, per Spotrac. Clark’s contractual implications aside, Brett Veach and company may have ultimately prioritized other financial puzzle pieces — such as a contract extension for Tyrann Mathieu — than paying Ingram something close to his $11.4 million annual market value.
Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!