Kansas City Chiefs

March 12, 2014

Chiefs sign linebacker Joe Mays, guard Jeff Linkenbach to free-agent contracts

A day after losing five key players, the Chiefs signed two free agents Wednesday — linebacker Joe Mays and guard Jeff Linkenbach.

A day after losing five key players, the Chiefs signed two free agents Wednesday — linebacker Joe Mays and guard Jeff Linkenbach.

On Tuesday, The Star reported the Chiefs re-signed safety Husain Abdullah to a a two-year deal.

“We are excited to be able to bring back Husain Abdullah, as well as add Joe Mays and Jeff Linkenbach to our roster,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said in a statement released on the Chiefs’ Twitter page Wednesday.

Former Saints receiver Joe Morgan also visited the Chiefs on Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Star.

Mays’ contract is for two years and $6 million, according to a source. ESPN’s Adam Caplan, who first reported Mays’ signing, wrote that his contract includes a $1.5 million signing bonus with up to $4 million in incentives each year.

It appears Mays, is listed at 5 feet 11 and 246 pounds, will likely take the place of Akeem Jordan, who was the Chiefs’ starting inside linebacker next to Derrick Johnson. Like Jordan, the 28-year-old Mays has a reputation as a two-down linebacker who is at his best against the run. He was drafted in the sixth round out of North Dakota State by Chiefs coach Andy Reid in 2008 and has since played for the Eagles, Broncos and Texans.

Mays racked up 67 tackles and a sack last season, and according to Pro Football Focus — a site that grades every player on every play — he posted a Focus grade of negative-1.8 in 563 plays, which ranked 22nd out of 55 inside linebackers who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps last year. By comparison, Jordan — who had up to six teams interested in his services before free agency — finished with 68 tackles last season and posted a grade of 4.5, which ranked 11th out of 55 inside linebackers.

Mays’ Pro Football Focus grade has hovered around the league average for the last five seasons. In 2012 it was negative-2.2, in 2011 it was 4.6, in 2010 it was 0.5 and in 2009 it was negative-2.4. He is best known for his 2012 head-first collision into Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, who lost part of his ear as a result of the play. The hit earned Mays a one-game suspension and a $50,000 fine.

In addition to giving the Chiefs a replacement for Jordan, Mays’ signing also gives Nico Johnson — the Chiefs’ 2013 fourth-round pick who recorded only 17 defensive snaps as a rookie — some competition at the spot next to Pro Bowl inside linebacker Derrick Johnson.

It’s worth noting that Nico Johnson suffered an ankle injury in training camp that set back his development last season. But at the NFL Draft combine last month, Reid was confident the former Alabama star has the right mentality to bounce back.

“He got nicked up a little bit, so he’s got to stay healthy and continue to learn,” Reid said. “The one thing you get him with him is that he’s willing to work hard and wants to be good and will do whatever it takes to do that. We just need to get him into camp and get him working.”

Linkenbach, 26, could compete for time at right guard to replace Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah. He joined the Colts as an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati in 2010 and is listed at 6 feet 6 and 325 pounds. He played right guard and right tackle last season and posted a Pro Football Focus grade of negative-7.5 in 408 snaps. In comparison, Asamoah’s grade was 7.9 in 673 snaps while Schwartz’s grade was an even better 18.6 in 549 snaps.

Linkenbach’s grades the previous three seasons were similarly below average: negative-16.9 in 876 snaps (2012), negative-18.3 in 1,007 snaps (2011) and negative-7.2 in 372 snaps (2010). But he has played in 60 games the last four years, including 33 starts, and he does bring plenty of versatility, as he has played every position along the offensive line besides center.

It’s possible the Chiefs see him as a depth signing, especially if they believe that Rishaw Johnson — who played OK in the regular-season finale against the Chargers (he posted a grade of negative-0.5 in 72 snaps) — is ready to be the starter at right guard.

The Chiefs acquired Johnson, 25, after he was released by the Seattle Seahawks last August. The 6-foot-3, 313-pounder found a home on the practice squad and was called up to the active roster a few weeks later. He appeared in four games with the Chiefs, including their 45-44 playoff loss to the Linkenbach’s Indianapolis Colts.

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