Kansas City Chiefs' Most Underrated and Overrated Offseason Additions
New additions were small in number for the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason, particularly compared with the roster overhaul that took place in 2013.
Yet despite the reduced numbers, the Chiefs have still managed to further boost an already intimidating pass rush. They've done it by bolstering the rotation at outside linebacker, while also adding greater versatility along the defensive line.
However, it hasn't all been good and thorough work from head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey.
Little has been done to fortify an offensive line decimated in free agency. Meanwhile, the secondary has been stripped bare.
Here are underrated/overrated assessments of the Chiefs' biggest offseason additions.
Overrated: Jeffrey Linkenbach, G
The Kansas City O-line was naturally depleted when Branden Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz departed in free agency. One solution Reid and Dorsey came up with was signing the versatile Jeffrey Linkenbach.
The former Indianapolis Colts backup can play on either side at both guard and tackle. The problem is that while Linkenbach is a jack-of-all-trades, he is a master of none.
The 27-year-old lacks might, despite a 6'6", 325-pound frame. Linkenbach is especially vulnerable to a bull rush on the inside.
It's difficult to see where he starts along a front five in need of a revamp. Yes, he can act as depth, but despite starting five games for the Colts in 2013, Linkenbach is far from credible cover.
Underrated: Joe Mays, ILB
Joe Mays is not the most dynamic athlete at the inside linebacker position, but the 28-year-old will give the Chiefs greater size in the middle.
At 5'11" and 244 pounds, Mays is a short and stout plugger who packs a thump against the run. More importantly, he is useful on the blitz.
He played for the Houston Texans in 2013, starting 13 games in Wade Phillips' version of the 3-4 defense. That's a one-gap, more attack-minded version of the scheme.
The Chiefs run their own aggressive system under coordinator Bob Sutton. He'll be able to make good use of Mays as an inside pass-rusher.
The Chiefs are still transitioning from Romeo Crennel's two-gap techniques to Sutton's more daring, multiple playbook. Mays can play a key role in that process.
Securing Mays to replace last season's starter, Akeem Jordan, was a smart move from Reid and Dorsey. Jordan not only provided competent support for playmaker Derrick Johnson, he was a also a factor on special teams.
Mays has a similar level of experience in football's third phase, while bringing a more aggressive mentality to a developing defensive scheme.
Overrated: J'Marcus Webb, OT
J'Marcus Webb represents another misguided, quick-fix solution to the team's lack of depth along the offensive line. Webb has been one of the most uninspiring starters in the NFL during most of his four pro seasons.
However, Webb made just one start and appeared in only eight games for the Vikes.
Just like Linkenbach, it's hard to believe Webb will see the field much or make any kind of positive impact in Kansas City.
Underrated: Vance Walker, DT
After four seasons in a situational role for the Atlanta Falcons, Vance Walker graduated to full-time starter with the Oakland Raiders in 2013. His performances earned him plaudits and a free-agency move to Kansas City.
Despite his limited time as a regular starter, Walker rates as one of the better additions by any team this offseason. That's due to the level of versatility and dynamism he brings to Kansas City's three-man front.
That latter quality will play a key role in boosting the pass rush up front. ESPN.com reporter Adam Teicher cited Pro Football Focus statistics to prove Walker's strength as a pass-rusher:
Walker wasn't a part-time player in Oakland last season. He was in the game for more than half of the defensive snaps in the 15 games he played. In most of those, he played a heavy majority of the snaps.
Pro Football Focus rated him a better pass-rusher than run defender. He had three sacks and 32 quarterback hurries, defined as plays where pressure forced the passer to get rid of the ball.
Teicher rightly contends that Walker's ability to create pressure makes him more valuable than previous starter Tyson Jackson, who was more adept at absorbing blockers than getting beyond them.
Having Walker in the fold will help expand the playbook for Sutton. He can be a factor in the team's nickel fronts, particularly as a 3-technique pass-rusher. Sutton can also use Walker to tweak base fronts to include more one-gap alignments.
Overrated: Phillip Gaines, CB
The Chiefs need help in the secondary and much will be expected of third-round pick Phillip Gaines. However, the former Rice prospect seems like a strange fit for Sutton's defense.
Gaines may struggle to adapt his zone skills to Sutton's man coverage-led schemes. Despite good size at 6'0" and 193 pounds, Gaines excelled as a zone corner in college.
NFL.com draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki highlighted Gaines' potential issues in man coverage:
Durability is a concern. Has been dinged up. Underdeveloped and underpowered. Does not play to timed speed. Not equipped to handle man-to-man responsibility. Poor run supporter and tackler. ...
Could earn a roster spot on pure measurables but lacks desirable functional speed, strength and physicality.
The lack of imposing physicality could be a major hindrance, given Sutton's preference for press-based, single-high coverage concepts. Gaines has the ability and mobility to shadow receivers down the field, but could consistently lose the initial power battle against NFL pass-catchers.
That's not good news is an AFC West division featuring big targets such as Demaryius Thomas, Keenan Allen and James Jones.
The Chiefs recently parted ways with accomplished veteran Brandon Flowers. He often struggled to adapt to the nuances of a new defense, so it's strange the team opted for another dubious scheme fit.
Gaines' incompatibility could already be showing. ESPN.com's Adam Teicher noted how Gaines has found himself lower in this offseaon's pecking order:
That the Chiefs, in need of corners, passed over Gaines for journeymen or developmental prospects in spring practice suggests they believe he is a project. It’s far too early to count him out, particularly if the Chiefs continue to have a need. If he improves in camp, the opportunity for playing time will probably be there. At this point, though, it appears his main contribution will come on special teams.
Considering the Chiefs need instant impact in a secondary that faces quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers twice a season, they may not have time for projects.
Underrated: Dee Ford, OLB
It's difficult to consider a first-round pick underrated, but the Chiefs certainly surprised many when they selected outside pass-rusher Dee Ford with their primary draft choice.
After all, the team already boasts Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, one of the most feared pass-rushing combinations in the game.
With that said, the existing strength at the position is just what makes Ford's addition so intriguing.
The idea that a team cannot have enough good players at a position is often overstated and inaccurate. But if there's one position where it's true, it's with pass-rushers—particularly in today's pass-heavy NFL.
Having multiple options who can get after quarterbacks is doubly important for a Chiefs team playing in the AFC West. How else can it expect to survive against the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers?
Dorsey was quick to endorse how Ford will work in a rotation with Hali and Houston, and how that trio can mask deficiencies in the secondary, per Fox Sports reporter Alex Marvez:
What he will do during the course of the game is spell guys. That gives you the ability to have your guys fresh rushing the passer late in the game. ...
We all understand you can't have enough good pass-rushers because it's going to make that back seven look better the quicker you get to the quarterback.
Just like Walker, Ford will increase what the Chiefs can do in terms of alignments and designed pressures. Sutton was very creative with sub-packages in 2013, but Ford's presence should see some new wrinkles added to the schemes this season.
The Chiefs overlooked obvious needs along the offensive front and at wide receiver when they selected Ford.
However, the choice could prove to be a masterstroke for a defense that will succeed or fail based on how much pressure it creates.