Roster overview of Chiefs defense, specialists before training camp

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With minicamp in the books, the Chiefs have a month’s worth of downtime before kicking off training camp in late July.

Rookies and select players report on July 28, veterans report on July 31, and then the Chiefs hold the first full practice on Aug. 1.

July 26, 2014; St. Joseph, MO; Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson (56), outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) and safety Daniel Sorensen (49) line up on defense during team-related drills at training camp. Credit: Matt Derrrick,
July 26, 2014; St. Joseph, MO; Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson (56), outside linebacker Justin Houston (50) and safety Daniel Sorensen (49) line up on defense during team-related drills at training camp. Credit: Matt Derrrick,

The biggest question surrounding the Chiefs’ roster ahead of training camp comes on the defensive side of the ball; specifically, will All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston report?

Houston, who hasn’t signed his one-year, $13.1 million franchise tender, did not show up for voluntary organized team activities of mandatory minicamp.

But the fifth-year linebacker currently isn’t under contract, so no harm, no foul and no fine.

The big date to circle on calendars for the Chiefs and Houston’s representative falls between the break of minicamp and the start of training camp.

Both sides have until 4 p.m. ET on July 15 to hammer out a multiyear contract or extension. After that date, Houston can only sign the one-year tender for the 2015 season, which opens the door for another set of scenarios, including a potential holdout if Houston chooses.

The good news is the Chiefs and Houston’s representative are negotiating.

“They’re continuing to talk and whether he is here or not, it just depends on how things go,” coach Andy Reid said on the final day of minicamp. “So we’ll continue to move on and hope that he is here at the beginning of camp.”

In the meantime, the Chiefs are at the maximum of 90 players allowed on the offseason roster, which breaks down as 45 on offense, 41 on defense and four specialists.

While the roster can change before training camp, the Chiefs currently have $538,565 in available cap room, per the NFLP Salary Cap Report.

Below is how the defense and specialists (rookies are italicized) shape out by position ahead of training camp, barring future transactions.

The offense is covered here.


Defensive end (5) Allen Bailey, Mike DeVito, Mike Catapano, Vaughn Martin, David Irving

The starters project as Bailey and DeVito, who returns from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

DeVito participated fully in OTAs and minicamp, as did Catapano, who spent the 2014 season on injured reserve with a concussion.

Nose tackle (6) Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard, Nick Williams, Jerel Worthy, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Charles Tuaau

Poe participated fully in minicamp after missing time during OTAs with back spasms.

Still, the Chiefs must identify a player in training camp to offer Poe relief during the season. The fifth-year pro has gone two straight seasons with 1,000-plus total snaps.

Outside linebacker (7) Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Dee Ford, Josh Martin, Frank Zombo, Dezman Moses, Sage Harold

Houston’s absence allowed Ford to receive first-team repetitions alongside Hali throughout OTAs and minicamp.

Expect the Chiefs to lean on Ford if Houston holds out in training camp or into the regular season.

Inside linebacker (6) Derrick Johnson, Josh Mauga, James-Michael Johnson, Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Justin March

Derrick Johnson dealt with inflammation to his right knee, the same leg he suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon in 2014, and missed some time during OTAs. He returned for minicamp, practicing fully, and looks forward to training camp.

“I missed a lot of football last year,” Johnson said on the second day of minicamp. “So training camp, I am itching to get back.”

The starters project as Johnson and Mauga, who is happy to return to Kansas City after playing last season on a one-year contract.

Cornerback (10) Sean Smith, Phillip Gaines, Jamell Fleming, Marcus Cooper, Aaron Hester, Deji Olatoye, Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson, Justin Cox, Kenneth Penny

With Smith, Peters, Gaines and Nelson projecting as the top four, the cornerback position will produce arguably the fiercest competition in training camp.

Gaines, in particular, turned in a solid performance during OTAs.

Fleming and Cooper bring starting experience, while Cox, an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State, certainly had his moments during OTAs and minicamp.

The Chiefs could look to keep an extra cornerback to start the season when considering Smith is subject to a potential suspension after he pleaded guilty in March to a DUI incident from 2014.

The Chiefs signed Penny following a successful minicamp tryout. Penny, who also attended the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, replaced rookie cornerback De’Vante Bausby.

The Chiefs waived Bausby, who suffered a clavicle injury during OTAs, on the final day of minicamp after reaching an injury settlement.

Strong safety (4) Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Tyvon Branch, Daniel Sorensen

Berry’s status for the 2015 season remains unclear, but the Chiefs have depth with Parker, Branch and Sorensen, who can also play free safety.

Parker appeared in all 16 games last season, recording 15 starts (11 in place of Berry).

The last official word from the Chiefs on Berry came from coach Andy Reid on the final day of minicamp.

“There’s really no update on Eric Berry,” Reid said. “He’s having, like I mentioned, some testing done and the doctors will meet and talk it over along with Eric and his family.”

Free safety (3) Husain Abdullah, Kelcie McCray, Daniel Sorensen, Sanders Commings

Abdullah, who enters the final year of his contract, is the clear starter.

The Chiefs have depth behind Abdullah with McCray, who played mostly on special teams in 2014, and Commings, who has stayed healthy after two straight seasons spent on injured reserve.


Punter (1) Dustin Colquitt

Colquitt remains one of the NFL’s top punters.

Kicker (1) Cairo Santos

Santos connected on 25-of-30 field goal attempts in his rookie season of 2014.

Long snapper (2) James Winchester, Andrew East

Potentially overlooked by many, but the battle between Winchester and East can’t be ignored when considering the late-season snapping woes of 2014.


Herbie Teope is the lead beat writer and reporter for Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.