One of the lingering questions on the Kansas City roster is opposite of the one that’s most certain. Tamba Hali has one outside linebacker slot down pat and was even recently named the 17th best player in the NFL by Peter King. On the opposite side, question marks abound as the Chiefs try to solidify a pass rush on both sides of the defensive line.
Andy Studebaker was signed to a long-term extension last year and takes up one roster spot vying for the starting OLB position. Mike Vrabel left to become a defensive coach at Ohio State, which positioned the Chiefs to take Justin Houston in the third round as Studebaker’s primary competition. However, both have some question marks.
For Studebaker, it’s a simple question of whether or not he’s ready for a starting spot or whether he’s better served as solid rotational depth. For Houston, he’s a speed rusher off the edge and lacks other pro level moves. Plus, he’s not even signed yet, leading us to wonder whether or not he will even contribute much in his rookie season. There’s a reason why teams passed him, and it’s impossible to tell whether it was a good move for the Chiefs or not until he hits the field.
That’s a major question mark to leave out there when generating a pass rush opposite Hali was such a need in the first place. That’s what makes Matt Roth such an intriguing addition to the Chiefs roster. Roth played a few seasons in Miami before joining the Cleveland Browns last season. He’s very experienced as both a defensive end and an outside linebacker in the 3-4 set and he’s solid against the run and has good pass rushing skills.
Pro Football Focus loves the Chiefs as the prime landing spot for Roth this offseason and notes, “Essentially, Matt Roth is a proven performer. He can play the run, and he makes life real tough for a quarterback. He may never lead the league in sacks, but he will help the coverage guys behind him by generating a lot of pressures. There should be a significant market for his services.”
Personally, this is the kind of signing that would get me excited. Roth immediately cements the starting spot at OLB until Houston gets up to speed on the playbook and adjusts to the pro level. Even if Houston is a better play than Roth on the outside, the lingering concerns some have about Tyson Jackson offer Roth another spot to contribute. If Roth signs a long-term deal, then Pioli has some flexibility when Glenn Dorsey’s contract is up next season.
The addition of Roth would be a positive scenario at every level and would turn out to be one of the best underrated additions in this NFL offseason.