Long-Time Chiefs Starter May Have Played Final Game in KC

If Derrick Nnadi’s tenure in Kansas City finally ends in 2024 free agency, then the long-time starting nose tackle would have already played his last game with the Chiefs.

KC announced that Nnadi would be placed on the injured reserve on January 26. That means he’ll miss the remainder of the 2024 playoff run, including this weekend’s AFC Championship game versus the Baltimore Ravens.

We have signed Practice Squad player LB Darius Harris to an active roster contract.

We have placed DT Derrick Nnadi on reserve/injured. pic.twitter.com/25HQd1od1M

— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 26, 2024

In his place, the Chiefs re-signed veteran linebacker/special teamer Darius Harris to the active roster.

Of course, with another uncertain offseason looming for Nnadi — a former third-round selection who has started 98 games for Kansas City during the regular season and the playoffs combined, appearing in 113 total — there’s no guarantee he’ll be back with the organization come OTAs.

Nnadi will enter March as an unrestricted free agent for the third straight year. He has eventually come to terms with the Chiefs on a reunion in both 2022 and 2023, and the same could happen this spring or summer.

Having said that, KC general manager Brett Veach has several other priorities to worry about this offseason, like retaining superstar DL Chris Jones and shutdown cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. Those two — among others — will certainly take precedence over Nnadi.

The veteran logged eight total snaps and one tackle during his last appearance in the Wild Card round versus the Miami Dolphins. Nnadi’s final stat line as a Chief, if he chooses to sign elsewhere in a couple of months.

Derrick Nnadi Has Stuck With Chiefs as Staff Favorite of Steve Spagnuolo

Nnadi’s stats and analytics aren’t particularly impressive. At the end of the day, he’s a space-eating defensive tackle that is a staff favorite of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

That’s kept the 27-year-old around his entire NFL career, spanning back to 2018.

Some might argue Nnadi could be upgraded on, however, and fairly easily at that. Pro Football Focus didn’t grade the interior lineman well in any category this year.

His best mark was a 51.8 as a pass rusher, and Nnadi only accumulated nine quarterback pressures and one lone sack on the season.

In run defense, an area Nnadi is paid to thrive, he earned a 42.0. That score included five missed tackles, a 4.8% stop rate and an average depth of tackle of 2.5 yards.

For the record, the 32-year-old Mike Pennel — who plays the same position as Nnadi and has spelled him in recent weeks — leads the Chiefs in run defense with a stop rate of 12.2%, plus an average depth of tackle of 2.0 yards. Similarly, Jones has only allowed 1.5 yards per average depth of tackle according to PFF.

As you can see, replacing Nnadi in 2024 shouldn’t be all that complicated, although Veach appeared to whiff at the task when he drafted nose tackle Keondre Coburn in 2023. We’ll see if the cap-strapped Chiefs try again this spring.

Chiefs Elevate Mike Pennel Again vs. Ravens, Plus New Face in Secondary

Not surprisingly, Pennel has been elevated to play Nnadi’s role in the AFC Championship. KC revealed the two promotions on January 27.

This will be the third straight postseason practice squad elevation for the former 2019 Super Bowl champion — meaning the Chiefs will have to sign Pennel to the active roster if they return to the big game and hope to play him.

Pennel was also elevated three straight times during the regular season, from Weeks 15-17. Kansas City is 4-1 in outings that the veteran has suited up for in 2023-24.

The second elevation was less expected. For the first time all season, cornerback Keith Taylor will be elevated along with Pennel.

A former fifth-round selection of the Carolina Panthers in 2021, Taylor has appeared in 34 NFL games over the course of his career. During that time, he’s registered 827 snaps on defense, with another 390 on special teams.

It’s unclear what role Taylor might play in the AFC title game — assuming he’s activated.

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