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Replacing Melvin Ingram Shouldn’t Be Difficult for the Chiefs

The Chiefs will have no shortage of opportunities to bring in a role player.

The Kansas City Chiefs' defensive line picture was extremely underwhelming heading into the offseason, specifically at the defensive end position. 

Midseason trade acquisition Melvin Ingram was slated to be a free agent, and many expected Frank Clark to be cut outright by the team. Even after Clark's contract got restructured and rookie George Karlaftis was selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, more work remained. Adding Ingram back into the fold was the highly anticipated final piece of the puzzle, but the 33-year-old had other plans

Jan 23, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) drops back to pass under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Melvin Ingram (24) during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Ingram is headed to the Miami Dolphins, the Chiefs should be headed to the free agent listings. Ingram played an integral role in the resurrection of Steve Spagnuolo's unit last season, as his splash plays and high motor were welcomed sights relative to some of his peers. His impact was made obvious on numerous occasions. 

For as helpful as he was as a pass-rusher in a pinch, however, Ingram wasn't always the most consistently productive player and did show his age (and flaws) at times. He was far from a perfect player with the Chiefs, and he would've been a third option at best this upcoming season in Kansas City. Replacing him is far from impossible. As a matter of fact, it should be pretty straightforward.

The Chiefs need a tertiary pass-rush specialist who can take some of the pressure off of Clark or Karlaftis and shift it to opposing quarterbacks. Judging by Ingram's abbreviated tenure, the player can presumably be a bit older and doesn't need to be the most durable historically. Betting on that profile at such an important position is risky but if the Chiefs are willing to do so, they will have choices galore. Let's take a look at some defensive ends who could help the team fill the void left by Ingram.

The premium product: Jadeveon Clowney

Nov 28, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (90) gives a thumbs up during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Among the remaining free agents in this year's defensive end class, Jadeveon Clowney sits atop the list. Not only is he one of the few impact players who has yet to celebrate his 30th birthday, but he's also coming off a year that saw him put up impressive numbers. 

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After one-year stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans, Clowney inked another one-year contract with the Cleveland Browns last offseason. He rewarded them for their investment, playing in 14 games and recording nine sacks to go with 19 quarterback hits, 32 pressures (per Pro Football Reference) and 11 tackles for loss. It was hands-down Clowney's best season since his Pro Bowl-caliber 2018 campaign.

With good play, though, comes the likelihood of a potentially lucrative contract. Clowney has burned through several teams in the past few seasons, so it remains to be seen whether he'll be locked up on a multi-year deal by the time the regular season rolls around. While he's a starting-level player and can certainly help the Chiefs, he's almost surely out of their price range. As a result, the chances of him joining the team seem rather low. 

The intriguing veterans: Trey Flowers, Carlos Dunlap, Jason Pierre-Paul

Oct 31, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker Trey Flowers (90) warms up before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Like Clowney, Trey Flowers has yet to turn 30. In fact, he won't even turn 29 until August. Despite that, staying on the field has been a concern for him in recent years. In each of the past two seasons, the former New England Patriots and Detroit Lions standout has appeared in just seven games. He has a combined three-and-a-half sacks over that span, making him more of a projectable signing for the Chiefs. If they acquire him, they'll be banking on his previous (quite solid) production. 

At 33 years of age, Carlos Dunlap is an elder statesman who just keeps on turning in quality stretches of play. He's no longer a full-time starter but he still managed to record eight-and-a-half sacks last season with the Seattle Seahawks. His length and strength would play well in Kansas City, and the possibility of him working in a rotation rather than being so heavily relied upon could result in the team getting the best out of him on the back nine of his career. Dunlap is the definition of an intriguing veteran.

Speaking of players who may be seeing the sun starting to set on their careers, Jason Pierre-Paul is an ultimate X-factor in this class. After playing in 16 games in 2020 and nearly getting to 10 sacks, he played less than three-quarters of the 2021 campaign and recorded just two-and-a-half sacks. He does have experience under Spagnuolo, however, which makes him a possible option as a lottery ticket that Kansas City could bank on for a bounce-back campaign at age 33. 

The shots in the dark: Ryan Kerrigan, Takkarist McKinley, Everson Griffen

Oct 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a touchdown under pressure from Philadelphia Eagles free safety Avonte Maddox (29) and defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (90) during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

These final three players are all longshots in regards to the probability of them being reliable contributors in 2022. In his age-33 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, Ryan Kerrigan played a career-low 31% of defensive snaps and failed to register a single sack. With that said, he did have five-and-a-half in each of the previous two years. It remains to be seen what else he has left in the tank, but perhaps his projected low cost on the open market is worth taking a chance on. 

Takkarist McKinley, 26, is by far the youngest player in this group. On the other hand, he has yet to establish himself as a legitimate pass-rushing threat in the NFL and is also coming off a late-season Achilles tendon tear that puts at least the start of his 2022 season in jeopardy. There are far more appetizing options still out there, which makes Kansas City investing in McKinley an unlikely occurrence. 

Last, but certainly not least, Everson Griffen is an interesting player. Despite seeing diminished snap counts and spending time with two different teams in 2020, he managed to record six sacks and remain effective. In nine games last season, he had five sacks and was playing solid football until he stepped away from the team to deal with his mental health. Griffen is interested in continuing his career this season, which could bode well for a team like the Chiefs if they're interested in bringing in an aging pass-rusher who'd be best suited for that aforementioned rotational role.