KANSAS CITY, Mo. — NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero reported that the Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to re-sign defensive tackle Mike Pennel to a 1-year deal. On the surface this may seem like yet another small wave in the Chiefs 2020 free agent ocean, but don’t be fooled: Bringing back Pennel is a huge deal for the Chiefs chances at winning another Super Bowl.
Nate Taylor of the Athletic reported that the Chiefs have one goal this offseason: “While most teams looked to acquire top talent on the open market, the Chiefs remained quiet and worked to retain the services of the players who helped them win the Super Bowl.”
The plan seems to be simple for the Chiefs: Bring back the important pieces to last year’s championship team and run it back. With that in mind, it makes sense that the Chiefs brought back one of the most impactful run defenders on the team.
Although Pennel only played 206 snaps (including playoffs) for the Chiefs, his impact against the run was felt not only when he was on the field, but when he was taken off as well.
Pennel played his first games against the Green Bay Packers in Week 8 and the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9 of the 2019 season. The Chiefs gave up 118 and 96 total yards rushing against the Packers and the Vikings respectfully, which was well below their average at that point in the season.
Pennel saw 0 snaps in the Week 10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, and the Chiefs gave up 225 rushing yards to Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill.
Pennel played in all nine of the Chiefs remaining games that season, and in the 11 games he played the Chiefs run defense only gave up 100 yards rushing per game, including the playoffs, and had a record of 10-1. Without Pennel on the field, the Chiefs surrendered over 158 yards rushing per game to opponents in eight total games.
It should also be noted that Pennel provides depth for the Chiefs at defensive tackle, which is extremely important to the kind of defense that coordinator Steve Spagnuolo runs. The Chiefs defense needs play-making nosetackles who can handle a lot of responsibility, and cover up average at times linebacker play in order to work. Pennel fits that description.
The Chiefs offseason has been fairly slow, and it’s possible it may never pick up as quickly as fans want it to, but the few moves the front office has made make a lot of sense, especially when it comes to bringing back Pennel.