Vance Walker drew interest from teams across the league this week and had a visit to Seattle all set up for Sunday.
So when Walker, a 26-year-old defensive tackle, arrived in Kansas City on Thursday for his visit with the Chiefs, he knew that if he hopped on a plane the next day without a deal, it wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world.
The Chiefs made sure it never came to that, however, as his agent, Tommy Sims, confirmed to The Star that his client had agreed to a three-year deal worth a maximum of $13 million and $3.75 million guaranteed.
“He knows he may be in a rotational system, but his mindset is to be a starter,” Sims said. “We asked for starter money and that’s what we got, so we’re all pleased with the outcome.”
While Walker got the payday he was seeking — a source told The Star the deal includes a $3 million signing bonus with a base salary of $750,000 — the Chiefs get another young interior lineman to pair with star second-year nose tackle Dontari Poe, who is coming off a breakout season and his first Pro Bowl appearance. The Chiefs later confirmed the move, along with the re-signing of backup outside linebacker Frank Zombo.
“We’re pleased that we were able to come to an agreement with both Frank and Vance,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. “Frank was a key member of our defense and special-teams units last season, and we are looking forward to having him back. Vance is a big, physical player that we believe can come in and contribute for us up front.”
Walker, who will presumably replace Atlanta-bound defensive end Tyson Jackson in the starting lineup, is listed at 6 feet 2 and 304 pounds. He racked up 40 tackles and three sacks last season and posted a Pro Football Focus grade of 4.0, which ranked 36th out of 65 defensive tackles who logged at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps.
Walker, however, also logged 32 quarterback hurries, the fifth-most among all 65 qualifying defensive tackles. For comparison’s sake, that’s four more than Poe logged, despite the fact Walker played 213 fewer snaps.
“He felt like he could play alongside Dontari Poe and contribute and be productive in that defense,” Sims said. “He played up and down the line (in Oakland), and had he stayed at the three-technique (defensive tackle), he felt like he could have doubled his stats total. He’s got some ability to rush the passer, so I think in the end, they realized they’re getting a guy who’s a three-down player.”
Jackson posted a much higher Pro Football Focus grade (14.6) than Walker did last season, but Walker’s pass-rush grade (1.5) was higher than Jackson’s (negative-3.3). Jackson was the superior run defender, however, posting a grade of (15.5, 10th out of 45 at his position) compared to Jackson’s (-0.6, 45th out of 69).
“Vance wants to come there and show he can be productive and an asset,” Sims said. “That’s why they did a three-year deal. He’s only 26 years old, he’s still young ,and he’ll still have a lot of juice left in the tank.”
Sims said Walker got a chance to meet Dorsey, coach Andy Reid and a few of the players during his visit.
“He really liked the vibe he got from Andy,” Sims said. “Certainly, Andy’s a player’s coach so he has that reputation of really relating to the young players, so he just felt real comfortable over there with those two guys and also with Chris Ballard, the director of player personnel.”
Walker, who is entering his sixth season, probably posted his best year in Atlanta in 2012, when he posted an overall grade of 7.6, which ranked 17th among 85 eligible defensive tackles. He signed a one-year deal last March with the Raiders, who Sims said were among the other teams interested in him this time around along with Seattle, Green Bay, Denver and the New York Giants.
Now, Sims said, Walker is interested in showing the league what he can do right as he enters his prime.
“He’s got a big chip on his shoulder,” Sims said. “He’s been underrated, he feels, so he wants to come in and put it out on the field and make sure the Chiefs know they didn’t waste their money.”