Despite signing Eric Berry to a long-term contract this week, the Chiefs won’t use their available franchise tag on defensive lineman Dontari Poe before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. deadline, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports.
If the Chiefs don’t tag Poe he will become a free agent March 9 unless they are able to agree on a long-term contract. Poe, 26, has been a stalwart on the Chiefs’ defensive line since 2012.
Poe played under a $6.1 million cap number in 2016 — the fifth and final year of his rookie contract — but figured to earn a raise in 2017, either in free agency or under a one-year franchise tender of about $13 million.
He should have his share of suitors on the open market. Poe recorded 27 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 2016 and also rushed for and threw for a touchdown on gimmick plays: “Hungry Pig Right” and “Tebow Pop Pass.” He’s a two-time Pro Bowler who has led the Chiefs’ defensive linemen in snaps every year since he was selected 11th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Poe’s most productive seasons with the Chiefs came in 2014 (45 tackles, six sacks and eight hurries in 944 snaps) and 2013 (51 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks and seven hurries in 975 snaps). He made the Pro Bowl each season.
He had back surgery to repair a herniated disk in the summer of 2015. Poe, 6 feet 3 and 346 pounds, only missed one game that year, recording 39 tackles, a sack and three hurries in 15 games, but his snap count dropped to 759.
In 2016, Poe didn’t miss a game, as he recorded a career-high nine pressures in 885 snaps, 16th-most among all NFL defensive linemen.
If Poe does not return, the Chiefs currently have plenty of young, experienced depth under contract for 2017.
Defensive linemen Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard are each coming off season-ending injuries but are multi-year starters, while second-round rookie Chris Jones finished second on the team in snaps but was first among all Chiefs defensive linemen in tackles (28), hurries (10) and passes defensed (four).
Second-year pro Rakeem Nunez-Roches also thrived with more playing time, as he took advantage of Howard and Bailey’s injuries to post career-highs in tackles (23) and hurries (three).