Chiefs Writer Says KC ‘Should Be In On’ Cardinals Free Agent

Zach Allen, Justin Herbert

Getty Arizona Cardinals free agent Zach Allen sacks Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert in 2022.

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach excels at finding the diamond in the rough — whether those players are veterans in free agency or prospects in the draft.

Thinking with a similar mentality, Arrowhead Pride writer Caleb James suggested a free agent fit that could end up being an under-the-radar addition for the Chiefs this March. The player is Arizona Cardinals defensive end Zach Allen, who Pro Football Focus projected at 3 years, $37.5 million ($26 million total guaranteed) in free agency according to AZ Sports editor Tyler Drake.

“The Chiefs should be in on Allen for that,” James told his followers. “I think he would be a good fit for what [Joe] Cullen likes and you can add another power rusher to go along with [Chris] Jones.”

As a film analyst, James has earned a reputation breaking down the trenches in particular, and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to offensive and defensive line. PFF’s contract projection would put Allen at an average annual salary of 12.5 million per year.

Cardinals’ Zach Allen Has Gotten Better Every Season

Allen is not the type to get much fanfare in Arizona, but he’s a consistent producer that has gotten better throughout his NFL tenure.

The former third-round pick out of Boston College first entered the league as a 22-year-old in 2019. He barely played during his rookie campaign before increasing his workload in year two with two sacks and six QB hits over 13 appearances.

Not exactly 12.5 million per year numbers, right? Well, since then Allen has turned into a full-time starter and his overall impact has spiked a bit. The Cardinals DE registered four sacks in 2021 and another five and a half in 2022. He also accumulated 95 total tackles over that two-year span, with 15 tackles for a loss and 34 quarterback hits in just 28 games.

According to PFF, Allen finished with 35 QB pressures in 2022 alone, which ranked third for the Arizona defense behind J.J. Watt and Markus Golden. Keep in mind, he only appeared in 13 games because of injury. That level of production was very comparable to Mike Danna from a Chiefs perspective, who also totaled 35 QB pressures in 13 games on PFF.

As a pass rusher, Allen could definitely show some improvement in terms of his pass rush win rate (10.4%), ranking 141st among all defensive linemen with a minimum 20% of snaps played during the regular season. Chiefs pass rushers like Frank Clark (13.9%), Danna (13.7%) and rookie George Karlaftis (13.2%) where all more consistent in that regard.

Allen has excelled in other areas, however. The Boston College product had a propensity for batting down passes at the line of scrimmage — an underrated trait for D-linemen. He batted down seven passes in 2022, and rarely missed tackles with a low missed tackle rate of 5.1%. Overall, PFF graded him a solid 72.7, with a 67.4 as a run defender.

Does a Zach Allen Signing Signal a Frank Clark Departure?

The Athletic’s Nate Taylor agreed that the Chiefs biggest offseason need in 2023 is defensive line during a recent collaborative article. He suggested filling that need in the draft though, rather than free agency.

He reasoned: “The Chiefs have Steve Spagnuolo as their defensive coordinator, so the team should always target defensive linemen in the offseason. Coach Andy Reid, general manager Brett Veach and Spagnuolo had success last year in selecting defensive end George Karlaftis late in the first round of the draft. You could argue that the Chiefs should target another pass rusher to pair with Karlaftis, similar to how the team acquired linebackers Willie Gay and Nick Bolton in the second round in consecutive years to solidify the middle of the defense.”

Although Allen feels like a perfect scheme fit, part of the inclination to go young at the position stems from the cap situation. James never said it, but a signing like Allen most likely means Frank Clark is cut as a cap casualty in March.

The polarizing veteran has had his ups and downs as a member of Chiefs Kingdom, but he always seemed to show up in the playoffs when it mattered most. Clark has an exorbitant cap hit of $28.675 million in 2023 and they can save $21 million by releasing him at any time.

It’s possible that they offer the team leader a contract extension instead, lowering that cap hit, but there’s no way Clark can remain on this roster without reworking his deal in some way, shape or form.

Read More