The Chiefs are intent on improving the league’s 26th-ranked run defense in 2017, and Monday, new general manager Brett Veach made a move toward that goal by trading for Buffalo Bills inside linebacker Reggie Ragland.
The Chiefs surrendered a fourth-round pick in 2019 for Ragland, a source told The Star. The Bills confirmed the compensation shortly after the trade.
To make room for Ragland, the Chiefs released veteran inside linebacker Josh Mauga.
Ragland, 23, was taken by the Bills in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Alabama. The 6-foot-2, 252-pounder was an unanimous All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, his senior year at Alabama.
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Ragland was expected to be a first-round pick last year but was diagnosed with an enlarged aorta during the pre-draft process. The issue is not expected to affect his career, but he still missed all of his rookie season because of a torn ACL in training camp last summer and spent 2016 on injured reserve.
“Sometimes my knee feels good, sometimes it’s sore,” Ragland told reporters recently. “I just know I have to keep getting better. I know I'm young and I still have time, so I'm not pressed about some of the things, but I know I still have to keep getting better.”
Ragland is profiled as a 3-4 inside linebacker, but the Bills shifted from a 3-4 to a 4-3 this offseason under new coach Sean McDermott — who is an Andy Reid protege. When healthy, Ragland has the ability to be a capable run stuffer, particularly as a “Mike” inside linebacker in the Chiefs’ 3-4 defense. He has the ideal size to take on blocks and plug gaps — the primary responsibility of the “Mike.” His NFL.com draft profile stated that some scouts “question his play speed” and his man cover skills “are limited,” but praised his striking ability, physicality and gap discipline.
By trading for Ragland, the Chiefs will be on the hook for the rest of his rookie contract, which runs through 2019. Ragland will have a salary cap charge of $715,517 in 2017 (fully guaranteed), $981,034 in 2018 and $1,246,551 in 2019. But the dead money of the contract — which totals $612,067 every year through 2019 — will be picked up by the Bills, not the Chiefs, which means his contract will be cheaper for the Chiefs to carry than it otherwise would for a second-round pick.
Ragland, who has initially been given jersey No. 90, will join a cast of inside linebackers looking to make an impact this season. Derrick Johnson and Ramik Wilson are the projected starters, while Kevin Pierre-Louis — who was acquired in a swap for Pro Bowl special-teamer D.J. Alexander — has also earned a lot of time with the No. 2s in camp.
The staff has also praised 2017 fifth-round Ukeme Eligwe, and the Chiefs still have two players who started games at inside linebacker — Justin March-Lillard and Terrence Smith — in the mix, though they didn’t log a signle defensive snap in preseason game No. 3 on Friday.
It’s worth noting that the 2019 fourth-rounder isn’t the only Chiefs pick the Bills own in upcoming seasons. Buffalo also acquired the Chiefs’ first-round pick in 2018 when Kansas City traded up to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes.