With Vance Walker, Chiefs got better, and saved money, too

Vance Walker harasses quarterbacks, which is what the Chiefs need more of from their defensive line.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As we know, the Chiefs simply didn’t have the salary cap space to make a big splash in free agency.

That was last year’s narrative.

But this year they did make a rather shrewd signing when they recently inked former Raiders defensive tackle Vance Walker to a three-year, $13.75 million deal.

Walker, if you believe the stats, is a better and cheaper version of Tyson Jackson, the former first-round draft pick who signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Falcons.

Walker (6 feet 2, 295 pounds) should be an immediate upgrade on the Chiefs’ defensive line, especially as a pass rusher, which is the area the Chiefs most want to improve and also the area of Jackson’s game with which they were most concerned.

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According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson graded out as a plus-15 against the run, but a minus-3.6 as a pass rusher. Walker was not so stout last season against the run (-0.6) but was far more effective on passing downs (+1.5).

The numbers bear that out: Jackson had four sacks last season but no other quarterback hits and just eight hurries. Walker, meanwhile, had three sacks, six hits and 32 hurries.

Putting pressure on the quarterback is Walker’s game, he said, and it doesn’t matter to him who gets the glory of the sack.

"Personally, statistics aren’t everything, and I kind of proved that with the Raiders," he said last week. "Obviously, my numbers, I’m not going to say could have been better, because they were pretty good, but I feel like I impacted a lot of plays that offenses had or tried to have against us.

"It doesn’t necessarily come down to statistics, but in a perfect world, yes, you want so many sacks, so many hits and hurries. I guess the biggest thing is, even with the Raiders, you may not get that sack, but one of your teammates will. To me, that’s a win as long as somebody is getting the pressure or sack.

"Every opportunity that I get to even get close to the quarterback, I’m there — that being sacks or hitting (the quarterback) or whatever the case, that’s what I do. That’s kind of who I am."

While Walker isn’t sure where he’ll line up on the Chiefs’ defensive line, he is confident he can play defensive end or over the center.

"Well, I haven’t heard nothing too specific about where I’ll play," he said. "If anything, I’ve played pretty much every position on the D-line. I’ve been in the league for five years, so I have a good bit of experience at the nose or three technique end, defensive end, so really whatever it is to help the team win, I’m sure I’ll be moving between all of those positions. I play them all equally well, whether it’s stopping the run or rushing the passer."

And Walker hopes he gets to spend plenty of time on the field during passing downs.

"I would hope so," he said. "It’s also on me to prove to those guys what I’m capable of doing, and once I do that I’m sure (general manager) John Dorsey will do exactly what he feels is necessary to help the team. I know I’m capable of doing both of those things, stopping the run and rushing the passer, easily."

Regardless, Walker said he is sold on the Chiefs’ defense.

"I love the environment and the program here and what they’re building," he said. "As far as myself, I fit in good with the team that they’re employing on defense. I saw a lot of good possibilities for myself just to help the team. I’m really excited about that.

"The defense, you know, they have a lot of good playmakers, and I feel like I can add to it so they can be much more successful than last year."

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.