New Chief on Defense: Reggie Ragland Traded to Kansas City

Brandon Salamat

On Monday, former 2015 second round pick Reggie Ragland of the Buffalo Bills was traded to fellow AFC team the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2019 fourth round pick. A couple of common reactions I’ve seen when I caught a glimpse on Twitter were that “the Bills are tanking”, “the Bills gave up too fast” and “Ragland landed in the best case scenario” – more on the latter statement, that’s true to an extent.

Coming out of college, Ragland’s strengths were having patience to diagnose the play, rushing the quarterback in a blitz role, run stuffing and big hitting. Some areas he had to work on were cleaning up his tackles, as he missed 15 in his last year in college. He had to improve in coverage, and you wouldn’t want him in man-to-man coverage against running backs. However, he can hold his own against some tight ends and backs in the flat. In some ways, he is a mirror image of Texans’ ILB Benardrick McKinney.

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Let’s rewind a little bit so everyone can catch up on who Ragland is and why he’s a better fit for the Chiefs. In 2015, Ragland was drafted by the Rex Ryan regime and fit the type of linebacker Rex liked to roll out there – an aggressive, downhill, shoot-the-gap banger. He’s a linebacker who displays patience before hitting the gap to lay the big hit on the ball carrier. Asking him to cover can be a problem, as he has some limits occasionally staying with tight ends on seam routes. He is used best in short zones. There was definitely some promise there in Buffalo next to Preston Brown as Rex ran an aggressive 3-4 scheme, but that all came to an end when Ragland suffered a torn ACL that forced him to miss his entire rookie season.

Fast forward to 2017 and there’s a new sheriff in town. His name is Sean McDermott. He is known for getting the best out of his defensive ends in Carolina, but he also had the athletic LBs in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. It seemed they had their entire half of the field covered. Ragland had to get accustomed to new defensive scheme but from the start he never looked comfortable, and he may also not be fully healthy (yet). So, as Ragland was labeled as versatile out of Alabama and could play anywhere in a 4-3, folks in Buffalo will tell you that is a lie – which then led to the trade.

IDP Outlook and Competition

Heading back to a 3-4 scheme is the best case scenario for Ragland to jumpstart his young career. His owners who held onto him can rejoice somewhat, but still temper expectations for this season (at least). He has competition at ILB with Ramik Wilson, Ukeme Eligwe and Josh Mauga pushing for snaps, and as long as Derrick Johnson is around and healthy, there will be just one spot to battle for.

Ramik has the edge right now as he’s made major improvements after being cut then brought back in 2016. That move lit a fire under him and could put a stall in Ragland seeing the field early on. He went from being a hesitant LB to an aggressive one – one that the Chiefs saw at Georgia. Wilson quickly established himself as one of KC’s best ILBs while filling in for Derrick Johnson in 2016 – from diagnosing the plays to filling the gaps to stopping the run.

Ramik plays the strongside “MIKE” ILB position, pretty much the tone-setter and shoot the gaps which is what Ragland can bring to the table as well.

Ramik is also a RFA (Restricted Free Agent) next season and Derrick Johnson is an UFA (Unrestricted Free Agent) in 2019 but always the possibility of getting cut next season. This is something it keep an eye on as well if you’re a Ragland owner, as his contract ends in 2020, so if the cards fall right then Ragland might have a shot at becoming a starter if neither return.

So what does that do for Ragland and his IDP owners? Stand pat and stay patient, as the best case scenario is he becomes Benardrick McKinney in KC, being the strongside ILB starter. His pass-rushing ability from the inside can get him an early role too, and that’ll help his IDP value where he gets the blitz role. You should already have a couple replacements on your roster for Ragland, as hope was lost about a month or two ago, but now the light is shining again with the move to KC. It also wouldn’t hurt to entertain trade offers for Ragland now that the door opened again – if the return interests you, don’t hold back – pull the trigger.

Ramik’s value doesn’t change much (yet) as I’d still count on him in 2016 as your weekly LB3 starter with LB2 upside.

What about the rookie; Ukeme Eligwe?!

I’ll tell you what to do with him. Leave him stashed on your taxi squad, because he wasn’t really going to contribute much this season anyway unless you get points on special teams tackles. He has definitely flashed his potential and what he’s capable of in preseason. His speed on the field and ability to chase the ball carrier along with being coachable will lead him to a bigger role sooner than later, so be patient. He has a few of the traits that Derrick Johnson possesses for his weakside role, like dropping into coverage and sifting through defenders, and shooting through the gaps to get after the QB.

The Chiefs might have found another diamond in the rough. Ramik was taken in the fourth round in 2015. All off-season long, coaches have raved about Eligwe – how he improves, is coachable and has the will to continue to learn and improve daily. They say he has a bright future – take that for what it is, but also I believe it. For Eligwe, it’s the same situation as Ragland. If KC doesn’t bring back Wilson and Johnson, then the arrow definitely points up for Eligwe in 2018. If he earns himself a role to slightly contribute, he could become their nickel LB where he can use his speed and coverage ability in today’s game.


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