- The Chiefs have finalized their defensive coaching staff under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. As Brooke Pryor of KansasCity.com writes, the biggest addition was defensive line coach and run game coordinator Brendan Daly, who previously served in that role with the Patriots. The organization has also added linebackers coach Matt House, defensive backs coach Dave Merritt, defensive backs/cornerbacks coach Sam Madison, linebackers coach Britt Reid, defensive quality control coach Terry Bradden, and defensive assistant Alex Whittingham.
It sounds like Dee Ford isn’t going anywhere. Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star reports that the Chiefs are expected to put the franchise tag on Ford, which is in keeping with GM Brett Veach‘s comments several weeks ago. At that time, Veach praised Ford’s season and indicated that he’ll return in 2019, saying simply, “[w]e’re excited to bring him back.”
There had been conflicting reports on whether the Chiefs are open to tagging the 27-year-old (28 in March), but the tag is a sensible solution since the Chiefs seem unwilling to let him walk. With the tag, the Chiefs can earmark Ford on a one-year, $15MM+ deal, then negotiate an extension up until the summer deadline.
For his part, Ford is open to the tag.
“That’s out of my control,” Ford said recently. “If it happens, it happens, and I don’t mind it.”
The 27-year-old made his first Pro Bowl this season after finishing with career-highs in tackles (55), sacks (13), and forced fumbles (league-leading seven). The 2014 first-rounder had previously shown signs of stardom, including a 2016 campaign when he compiled ten sacks. However, Ford truly established himself as one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL in 2018; Pro Football Focus ultimately ranked him 11th among 103 eligible edge defenders.
Ford was stellar for a Chiefs defense that lacked consistency throughout the year. His ill-timed neutral zone infraction in the AFC Championship Game may have cost them a chance at the Super Bowl, but he still profiles as one of the best edge defenders in the league. In 2018, Pro Football Focus ranked Ford as the No. 11 edge rusher in the NFL, putting him ahead of notables such as Olivier Vernon, Justin Houston, and Cameron Wake.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We normally don’t devote full-length posts to position coaches here at PFR, but there is an exception to every rule. The Chiefs have announced that Emmitt Thomas, who worked as an NFL coach for 38 seasons after a Hall-of-Fame career as a player, is retiring.
Thomas will end his football career in the same place it started. He joined the Chiefs in 1966 as an undrafted free agent and parlayed those nondescript beginnings into a 13-year playing career in which he tallied 58 interceptions as Kansas City’s star cornerback. He was an integral part of the club’s only Super Bowl championship, and those 58 picks remain a franchise record (and is the 12th-highest all-time mark). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
He began his NFL coaching career in 1981 as an assistant with the then-St.Louis Cardinals, and he won two more Super Bowl rings as a position coach with the Redskins from 1986-94. He also served as a defensive coordinator for the Packers, Vikings, and Falcons, and he got a brief shot as a head coach (on an interim basis) when Bobby Petrino abandoned the Falcons near the end of the 2007 season.
Thomas joined the Chiefs as defensive backs coach in 2010 and remained in that post through the 2018 campaign. His full remarks, as well as statements from Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt and head coach Andy Reid, can be found here.
We here at PFR congratulate Thomas on a remarkable career as a player and coach at the game’s highest level and wish him the best in retirement.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Chiefs will, in fact, be poaching an SEC defensive coordinator. Kentucky will let Matt House leave the school to take a job with the Chiefs, per Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star. This comes after a report indicated House would not be permitted to get out of his Kentucky contract to join Steve Spagnuolo‘s defensive staff. But the Chiefs will pay House’s $150K buyout in order for him to become their new linebackers coach. House previously worked with Spagnuolo, serving as an assistant linebackers coach with the Rams. Both of the Chiefs’ previous linebacker staffers — Mike Smith and Mark DeLeone — are now coaching in the NFC North. While Kentucky just lost its defensive boss, both Florida and Texas A&M’s DCs have been linked to the Bengals’ job.
University of Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House will remain with the Wildcats rather than join the Chiefs as the team’s linebackers coach, Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones tweets.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor [Twitter link], Kentucky decided to not let House out of his contract after originally agreeing to a buyout. Paylor notes that House wanted to be with the Chiefs.
Earlier in the week, it was reported that House was expected to join the Chiefs, reuniting him with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who he previously worked with while serving as a quality control coach and assistant linebackers coach with the Rams.
House emerged as a hot name in 2018 after leading the Wildcats to the No. 6 scoring defense in the country. That unit was led by Josh Allen, a standout pass-rushing linebacker who is expected to be taken in the top 10 of the upcoming NFL Draft.
The search will continue for the Chiefs, who are looking for a replacement for Mike Smith, who joined the Packers in January in a similar role. The team’s inside linebackers coach, Mark Deleone, also left the team, joining the Bears in the same capacity.
The Patriots have had a ton of turnover on their staff, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, the past couple of years, and that got even more pronounced today. “Defensive line coach Brendan Daly is leaving for a spot on the Kansas City Chiefs’ staff”, a source told Jim McBride of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). Daly, 43, had been with the team since the 2014 season. The team lost defensive coordinator Matt Patricia last year, who left to become head coach of the Lions.
- The Chiefs have hired Dave Merritt as their new defensive backs coach, per Yates (Twitter link). Merritt was actually hired as the Jaguars’ assistant defensive line coach earlier this offseason, but Jacksonville has apparently let him out his contract in order to pursue a better opportunity. The 47-year-old Merritt worked under new Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in New York, working as the Giants’ defensive backs coach alongside Spags from 2007-08. The Chiefs haven’t announced whether incumbent secondary coaches Emmitt Thomas and Al Harris will be retained.
- A former Giants great, Antonio Pierce spent the 2018 season on Herm Edwards‘ Arizona State staff. The Chiefs, however, were interested in prying Pierce away and making him their linebackers coach, per Marvez (on Twitter). But Pierce, who just wrapped up his first season as a college coach, opted to stay with the Sun Devils.
Here are Thursday’s reserve/futures contracts:
Kansas City Chiefs
Ripkowski is most well known for spending a few years as the Packers’ fullback. Green Bay drafted him in the sixth round in 2015, but cut him this past September. For his career Ripkowski has rushed 39 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns, with 17 catches for 103 receiving yards and another touchdown. The Chiefs already have Pro Bowler Anthony Sherman at fullback, but he is set to be a free agent this March, so perhaps the Chiefs are signing Ripkowski as insurance in case Sherman departs.