The Kansas City Chiefs retained part of their thinning defensive tackle room on Monday, March 13 by re-signing Tershawn Wharton to a one-year, $2 million deal, according to Ari Meirov of The 33rd Team.
Wharton, 24, entered the NFL undrafted Missouri S&T and joined the Chiefs in 2020. Since then, he has played in a total of 38 regular season games for Kansas City and has recorded a total of 55 pressures (43 QB hurries, 7 sacks, 5 QB hits), according to PFF. He has also played in six playoff games for the Chiefs and has a total of 9 pressures (6 QB hurries, 2 QB hits, 1 sack) in those games.
During the 2022 season, Wharton played in the first five games of the regular season before landing on injured reserve due to a torn ACL.
Chiefs Need to Add to Defensive Tackle Room
As it stands, the Chiefs only have Chris Jones and Tershawn Wharton as defensive tackles that played meaningful snaps during the 2022 season and are signed through the 2023 season. Khalen Saunders, Brandon Williams, and Derrick Nandi are free agents. That means the defending Super Bowl champions need to continue to add to that room via free agency and the draft to maintain a strong core in the defensive interior.
Some notable free agent defensive tackles in the NFL include Fletcher Cox, Shelby Harris, Michael Brockers, and Ndamukong Suh.
Chris Jones Emerging as Top DT in NFL
During the 2022 regular season, Chris Jones, 28, registered a total of 77 pressures (50 QB hurries, 15 sacks, 12 QB hits), 31 stops, and 2 forced fumbles, according to PFF. His 92.3 defensive grade during the regular season was the highest among all interior defenders in the NFL, even ahead of Aaron Donald, who was PFF’s highest-graded interior defender for eight straight seasons prior to 2022.
The 2022 season also marked the first time in his career that Jones earned first-team All-Pro honors.
Arguably the best performance of Jones’ career came during Kansas City’s AFC Championship victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in January. During that game Jones was a force to be reckoned with, registering 10 total pressures (5 QB hurries, 3 QB hits, 2 sacks) and 3 stops.
Jones is entering the final year of his four-year, $80 million deal with the Chiefs in 2023. On top of that, he has a $28 million cap hit for the 2023 season, which is the second-largest on the team, second to only quarterback Patrick Mahomes ($49.2 million). Because of this, it would make sense for Kansas City to work out a contract extension with its All-Pro defender to lock him up long-term while also reducing his cap hit for the 2023 season.
According to Nate Taylor of The Athletic on March 2, Jones wants a contract extension that makes him “at least the second-highest player at his position.”
The highest-paid interior defender in the NFL is Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, who was given a three-year, $95 million extension during the 2022 offseason. That puts his contract at an average annual value (AAV) of $31.6 million, according to Over The Cap. Second on that list for interior defenders are Leonard Williams of the New York Giants (three years, $63 million) and DeForest Buckner of the Indianapolis Colts‘ (four years, $84 million), who both have an AAV of $21 million.