Less than 24 hours after signing former Seattle Seahawks second-round defensive tackle Jarran Reed to help bolster its defensive front next season, the Kansas City Chiefs are losing a second-round defensive lineman of their own.
As first reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Monday morning, the New Orleans Saints are finalizing a two-year, $4.5 million contract with defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon (pronounced Tawn-oh Pass-N-yo).
Tanoh Kpassagnon signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. He received a $500,000 signing bonus and $2 million in guarantees. The deal carries three void years. Max value of $5.25 million if he achieves a sack escalator.
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) March 29, 2021
According to Herbie Teope of The Kansas City Star, the Chiefs did “make a run” at bringing back the former 59th overall pick, but ultimately the Saints provided a more “interesting opportunity” for the unrestricted free agent.
I'm told the Chiefs made a run at bringing back Tanoh Kpassagnon, but he thought the Saints provided an "interesting opportunity."
Also, pending signing gives Kpassagnon chance to work Saints DL coach Ryan Nielsen, who did the private workout with Kpassagnon back in 2017. https://t.co/wiXyTid3mU
— Herbie Teope (@HerbieTeope) March 29, 2021
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Kpassagnon Still Offers Some Unlocked Potential
The 26-year-old edge rusher was a fascinating prospect coming out of Villanova in 2017, but couldn’t quite reach his ceiling during his first four years in Kansas City. The towering 6-foot-7, 289-pounder has totaled 75 combined tackles (12 for loss), 18 quarterback hits, 7.0 sacks and five pass breakups in 61 career games. Fifteen of his 24 career starts came last season, however, he managed only 28 tackles and a single sack while his defensive snaps decreased as the season progressed. Kpassagnon has also played a role on special teams early on in his career, and due to his length and ability to block kicks, it’s reasonable to think the Saints will continue to use him in that phase moving forward.
Kpassagnon’s new deal indicates a rotational player at defensive end, which makes sense given the presence of All-Pro Cam Jordan and 2018 first-rounder Marcus Davenport in New Orleans. However, the free agent loss of 2020 team sack leader Trey Hendrickson should open up some playing time for the former Chiefs edge.
If the fifth-year defender can put it all together with his new club, he still offers some tantalizing upside as a consistent starter or situational impact player along the Saints’ talented front. Kpassagnon’s impending departure also leaves quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the only remaining member of the Chiefs’ 2017 draft class still on the roster.
Chiefs Must Address DE Position Opposite Frank Clark
With Kpassagnon now out of the picture and Alex Okafor now an unrestricted free agent, the Chiefs’ need at the defensive end position has become slightly more glaring with one month to go until the NFL Draft. At present, some combination of Taco Charlton, 2020 fifth-rounder Mike Danna and a promising but inexperienced UDFA Tim Ward would be the key pieces opposite Pro Bowl starter Frank Clark.
Reed’s aforementioned arrival should allow Chris Jones to kick outside to defensive end more frequently in 2021, but that is unlikely to be a full-time transition for the team’s best interior pass rusher.
Instead, the Chiefs are still exploring their free agency — albeit a diluted pool of options at this point — including a recent visit with former Los Angeles Chargers standout Melvin Ingram. The 31-year-old left Kansas City without a contract on March 24, but remains unsigned and is still a possibility for the Chiefs should his alternate options not pan out in the coming days and weeks.
Otherwise, Brett Veach and company may look to spend a Day 1 or more likely a Day 2 pick on a rookie edge rusher. While this regime has a poor track record of drafting true defensive ends since 2013, they have shown a willingness to throw darts on projectable athletes, including Dadi Nicolas in 2016, Kpassagnon in 2017 and Breeland Speaks in 2018.
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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!