With the availability of Pro Bowl defensive end Frank Clark up in the air heading into training camp, the Kansas City Chiefs are bringing back a familiar face to bolster the depth along the defensive line.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Tuesday, July 20, Kansas City is reuniting with defensive end Alex Okafor on a one-year contract. The financial terms of the deal were not immediately made available.
The move comes less than 24 hours after free agent pass rush target Melvin Ingram elected to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite receiving interest from the Chiefs and Miami Dolphins, per Rapoport on Monday.
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Okafor Likely to See Increased Role in 2021
The 30-year-old veteran now enters his ninth season in the NFL, and third straight with the Chiefs. Okafor’s production took a slight dip in 11 games last season compared to 2019 — during which he started nine of 10 contests — though he again missed nearly one-third of the season due to multiple hamstring injuries.
After posting 5.0 sacks in 2019, 2.0 of Okafor’s 3.0 sacks in 2020 didn’t come until the final two weeks of the year and fell well short of his career-best mark (8.0) with the Arizona Cardinals back in 2014. With Clark now facing up to three years of jail time for a felony gun charge stemming from a March 12 traffic stop, Okafor brings a level of experience not present within the Chiefs’ current edge group outside of 2017 first-rounder Taco Charlton, who has 44 games (12 starts) under his belt to date.
Despite the versatility of Chris Jones, who according to NFL insider Jay Glazer will be utilized more as an edge rusher this season thanks to the presence of newcomer Jarran Reed, Okafor is a logical candidate to see a bump in playing time pending the outcome of Clark’s legal situation.
While Ingram’s price tag was likely a factor that forced general manager Brett Veach to move on, the Chiefs could still be in the market for a more budget-friendly free agent prior to the start of training camp on July 27. The more likely scenario, however, is Kansas City lets the competition play out with its young group of edge defenders, including this year’s raw fourth-round selection Joshua Kaindoh and last year’s fifth-rounder Mike Danna.
Chiefs Top New 3-Year NFL Power Rankings
There’s no question after two consecutive Super Bowl appearances and an offseason overhaul of Patrick Mahomes’ offensive line that expectations are again sky-high in Kansas City. Peeking ahead though, the Chiefs’ front office will be faced with a number of difficult decisions, including presumably large contract extensions for key contributors such as Tyrann Mathieu, Orlando Brown Jr. and Tyreek Hill.
On Monday, ESPN released its 2021 NFL future power rankings, an exercise to project all 32 franchises over the next three seasons based on five weighted categories: roster (30%), quarterback (20%), draft (15%), front office (15%) and coaching (20%).
For all of the team’s recent efforts, the Chiefs landed atop the list with the best overall score of 88.5, bolstered by top-five marks at quarterback (98.3), coaching (95.5) and overall roster (86.3).
“There’s an easy case that no other quarterback in football is more preferable to have on your roster over the next three years than Patrick Mahomes, who is coupled with one of the league’s best head coaches in Andy Reid. The Chiefs’ outstanding front office led by GM Brett Veach is resourceful and willing to be bold when needed. This team is here to stay,” wrote ESPN’s Field Yates.
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!