Chiefs biggest defensive loss may not be L’Jarius Sneed

Losing L'Jarius Sneed would be a massive blow for the Kansas City Chiefs, but he may not be their most substantial non-Chris Jones loss on the defensive side of the ball.

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs
Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs / David Eulitt/GettyImages
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The Kansas City Chiefs have made an all-out effort to retain All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, who is a pending free agent this offseason, at the expense of other players.

Shutdown cornerback L’Jarius Sneed has been notified by the Chiefs that the team is “prepared” to franchise tag him if the two sides can’t agree on a long-term contract extension, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who also reported a “tag-and-trade” is a possibility.

However, Kansas City’s most substantial defensive loss may not be Sneed, under the assumption Jones and the Chiefs wind up finding common ground on a new deal.

LB Willie Gay Jr. may be Chiefs biggest defensive loss this offseason

Willie Gay Jr., who the Chiefs selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, has been a critical piece of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme as a speedy linebacker who offers versatility with his unique blend of size, strength, and quickness.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell cites Gay’s ability to operate as a spy against mobile quarterbacks like Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson because he is fast enough to keep up with them as a skill set of importance in today’s NFL. “Mobile passers aren’t going anywhere, and there aren’t many linebackers as fast as Gay,” Barnwell said.

Gay displayed his swiss-army-knife prowess in 2023, recording 58 combined tackles, four pass deflections, four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, one sack, and an interception.

Entering his age-26 campaign, Gay is entering unrestricted free agency. The looming extension of Jones (which will likely be a lucrative contract) will make it challenging for the Chiefs to retain a talented young linebacker who will have a robust market.

Spotrac’s calculated market value projects Gay’s annual average salary at $7 million based on comparable players who have signed contracts in recent seasons.

The Chiefs have their work cut out for them this offseason as they look to become the first team in NFL history to win three consecutive Super Bowls, including the pending free agency of Gay.

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