Chiefs Urged to Follow ‘Rams Model’ to Acquire 1 of 3 Pass Rushers

Za'Darius Smith, Kirk Cousins

Getty Green Bay Packers edge rusher Za'Darius Smith chases down Kirk Cousins on December 23, 2019.

Finding help at pass rusher will be a top priority for Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach this spring.

The question is — do you do this in free agency, the draft, or via trade? Brandon Kiley of Arrowhead Pride and ESPN’s “BK & Ferrario” urged KC to be more aggressive this offseason and follow the “Rams model,” which he admitted is risky.

This high-stakes plan of attack involves trading draft capital for expensive veteran upgrades and Kiley provided a few cap casualty options that could be had at edge rusher in 2022 — but each would come with a rich price tag.

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1-Year Rental Pegged as ‘Buy-Low Candidate’

The best option Kiley suggested would only hamper the Chiefs’ cap space for the 2022 season. That player is Green Bay Packers pass rusher Za’Darius Smith.

ESPN beat reporter Rob Demovsky recently named Smith as a player who needs a “change of scenery this offseason,” noting that the EDGE went from an “important defensive player in 2019 and 2020 to a nonfactor in 2021” — because of a back injury and contract disputes. After a year on the pine, the Packers Pro Bowler is looking to regain his form.

It’s important to point out that Smith didn’t miss a single game from 2018-20 and only missed six his first three seasons from 2015-17. Kiley detailed the pros of trading for the 29-year old pass rusher:

Smith certainly fits the mold of a typical Steve Spagnuolo defensive end. He’s listed at 6 feet 4 and weighs more than 270 pounds. He’s been a productive player when healthy, racking up 34.5 sacks, 40 tackles for loss and 85 quarterback hits between 2018-2020. Smith plays a grown man game, winning with speed to power around the edge. He would pick up where Frank Clark left off, but possibly with more production.

The major cons are obviously his cap number and his back — which must be tested after surgery. Smith did return for the Green Bay playoff game in January and picked up right where he left off, logging a sack and a tackle for a loss.

If Veach were to trade for him, it would cost a $14.5 million base salary in 2022 and would mean the end of Clark in Kansas City. The Chiefs could cut or trade ‘the Shark’ after June 1 and save $19.5 million in cap this year and $21 million in 2023 (per OTC).

They should also find a willing partner in Green Bay. Demovsky stated: “The Packers need all the cap space they can get, and they’d gain $15.75 million by moving on from [Smith].”

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2 Pricier Options From Kiley

If they deem Smith’s back as too much of a risk, Kiley suggested Dallas Cowboys pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence as a worthwhile alternative. Just as you’d do with Smith, the Chiefs would eventually have to ditch Clark’s contract to make this work, only this time it would be more of an even post-June 1 trade-off.

According to Over the Cap, Lawrence is making a $19 million base salary in 2022 and $21 million next year. “Cutting or trading him prior to June 1 saves [Dallas] $8 million, but a post-June 1 cut or trade would free up $19 million,” explained Kiley.

When you think about it like that, the Chiefs could upgrade on Clark with the more consistent Lawrence, who accumulated 36.5 sacks and 50 tackles for a loss from 2017-20. He was also as reliable as they come over that span and did not miss a game in four seasons.

I should mention that he missed 10 games in 2021 due to a fracture in his foot, but he made a full recovery before returning in early December. Lawrence had three sacks and five tackles for a loss in seven starts last season.

The least appealing mark from Kiley on paper was probably Detroit Lions’ underperformer Trey Flowers, but some familiarity with a Chiefs assistant coach could bridge the gap.

He wrote: “Flowers has the type of position versatility and ability against the run that should appeal to Spagnuolo. He also played for Chiefs linebackers coach Brendan Daly when Daly was the Patriots defensive line coach from 2015-18. There’s plenty of familiarity there, and the Chiefs might believe they can get more out of Flowers than the Lions did.”

Kiley did add that Flowers would have to be willing to take a pay cut in the event KC traded for him — currently at a $16 million base the next two seasons — but the pass rusher might be more willing to do so moving from the lowly Lions to a proven winner.


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