Chiefs Starter Called ‘Sleeper Free Agent’ That’s Generating ‘Buzz’: Insider - Sport News

Chiefs Starter Called ‘Sleeper Free Agent’ That’s Generating ‘Buzz’: Insider

Last offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs lost several free agents including left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, right tackle Andrew Wylie, safety Juan Thornhill and defensive tackle Khalen Saunders among others.

Chiefs' Mike Danna called sleeper free agent in 2024.

It can be difficult retaining veterans when you win a championship, and the Chiefs will likely lose a few more key pieces in 2024. After a March 3 free agency update from ESPN NFL insiders Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano, one potential departure could be starting defensive end Mike Danna.

A section of Fowler and Graziano’s article — based on chatter they’ve been hearing at the NFL combine — was headlined: “Sleeper free agents getting buzz?”

Danna was the second name on the list, as Fowler described him as a “versatile lineman who can play inside or out” for a new team. This section was intended to highlight “free agents who aren’t household names but should do pretty well this month,” according to the veteran reporter.

Chiefs’ Mike Danna Deserves Likely Payday in 2024 Free Agency

If Danna gets paid by another franchise in 2024, he’ll have earned every penny. The 2020 fifth rounder has exceeded expectations since entering the league, transitioning from a rotational role on the defensive line to a 16-game starting job in 2023.

Four years into his NFL career, Danna has cashed approximately $5.255 million according to Over the Cap. Considering he was only guaranteed $263,660 upon being drafted, that’s one heck of an accomplishment that equates to earning 147.7% of his rookie contract.

Having said that, Danna is deserving of more — and the Chiefs are unlikely to provide with their focus placed squarely on extending Chris Jones and securing a new left tackle for Patrick Mahomes II.

Over 72 appearances in Kansas City counting both regular season and playoffs, Danna was incredibly consistent logging 18.0 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, 45 QB hits, four forced fumbles and four pass defenses. Pro Football Focus has also credited him with 129 quarterback pressures and 83 key defensive “stops” that resulted in a failure for the offense.

As Fowler noted, the Chiefs moved Danna all around the defensive line over the course of his KC tenure, putting in work in all four areas of DL alignment on PFF (A-gap, B-gap, over the tackle, outside the tackle). The former Michigan Wolverine was also a part of the two most recent Super Bowl title runs and will bring a championship mentality with him wherever he goes.

Chiefs Have Major Holes to Fill on Defensive Line

Kansas City has a severe lack of depth on the defensive line heading into free agency, so expect them to target a few replacements in free agency or the draft if a player like Danna were to leave for more money. As of March 3, the Chiefs have the following defensive linemen under contract:

  • Charles Omenihu (likely injured to start 2024 season).
  • George Karlaftis III (starting DE).
  • Felix Anudike-Uzomah (rotational DE).
  • Neil Farrell (rotational DT).
  • Matt Dickerson (rotational DL).
  • BJ Thompson (depth DE).
  • Truman Jones (depth DE).
  • Isaiah Buggs (depth DT).

Keep in mind that Jones is expected to join this group — assuming an extension is reached ahead of free agency. If not, all bets are off.

But even if Jones does re-sign, that’s a group in need of some reinforcements. The D-tackle room is made up of question marks behind the superstar game-wrecker, and there’s currently no clear starting D-end opposite Karlaftis with Omenihu recovering from injury.

Will 2023 first rounder Anudike-Uzomah get a shot? Is he even ready for that type of role?

The Chiefs defensive line has some major holes to address this spring. With a potential lack of cap space once Jones is retained, it will be interesting to see how general manager Brett Veach attacks this area of need.

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