Tanoh Kpassagnon Brings Intriguing Potential As Saints’ Low Cost Free Agent Acquisition – Crescent City Sports
Let’s look at the situation of the New Orleans Saints on the defensive end.
Trey Hendrickson left in free agency to join the Cincinnati Bengals for a massive paycheck after a year in the career.
The jury may still be absent on the 2018 1st round pick Marcus Davenport (74 tackles, 12 sacks, 15 starts).
Proven star Cameron Jordan may or may not have a lot of gas in his tank as he enters his 32-year-old season.
Carl Granderson, undrafted, is entering his third season as a promising but above all unproven passer.
Former University of Houston defensive end Payton Turner was the Saints’ first choice this year.
Are we missing someone? Yes.
Tanoh Kpassagnon signed with the Saints on free agency and sort of flew under the radar. His addition could play a role in strengthening the defensive line. An intriguing option that may yet have seen his best football yet, he signed a two-year, $ 4.5 million contract including a $ 500,000 bonus with $ 2 million guaranteed.
Kansas City caught Kpassagnon in the second round with the 59th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft as the ninth defensive end of the table. Considering his track record, this was a terribly impressive feat in itself. The New Orleans Saints were one of 10 NFL teams to have private practice sessions with Kpassagnon before this draft.
Wissachick High’s product in Kalamazoo, Michigan received only one offer for Villanova University. Hall of Fame defensive tackle Howie Long is a Villanova alumnus, but the school known for basketball rarely makes a jump on the football radar.
Kpassagnon was initially tempted on a tight end by the FCS Wildcats, but after two seasons the 6-foot-6 physical wonder went on the defensive. As a senior, he totaled 11 sacks and 21.5 tackles for the loss, totals that opened the eyes of NFL scouts.
Described as a bizarre athlete, Kpassagnon showed an exceptional first step out of the snap, good initial burst, huge reach and excellent flexibility. He throws up the blockers quickly and slips in to tackle the occasion. He’s still a bit raw, despite spending four seasons in Kansas City.
Kpassagnon hasn’t quite hit his peak but the Chiefs haven’t put in much effort to hold him back. Maybe New Orleans will end up thanking them later.
After an impressive performance in Senior Bowl week in 2017, NFL network analyst Bucky Brooks recognized something special about Kpassagnon on the spot. “He’s really nervous for a long, lanky guy. Normally, you’d expect these guys to be woodworking and working on the bale, and they don’t. He has a certain speed. He has a special ability.
Kpassagnon further bolstered his NFL Combine draft supply with 23 reps on the bench press test and a 4.83 time on the 40-yard dash.
ESPN project analyst Todd McShay was among his supporters. “You see the big hands, the strong hands, the ability to control blockers. He has a powerful punch. He’s just believed. It needs good guidance and needs to be developed. I think he can be an impact starter someday in the league. I think at first he will be used as an actor in the situation.
All of this turned out to be correct. Kpassagnon ended up making 24 starts for the Chiefs including 15 in his last season with the team.
The offseason newcomer to Crescent City played 61 NFL games during his tenure with the Chiefs, scoring 75 tackles, 7.0 sacks and 12 TFLs. It took the aforementioned Hendrickson until his fourth season to really break through. Who can say that the fifth year will not be the charm of Kpassagnon?
Interestingly, Kpassagnon replaced former Saints defensive end Alex Okafor in the Kansas City starting lineup in 2019, when Okafor suffered an injury at the end of the season. Kpassagnon delivered 11 pressures and 4.0 bags. Okafor has never been able to find its place.
On the verge of turning 27 in June, Kpassagnon said he tried to emulate former NFL star Julius Peppers, another 6-foot-7 defensive end who ended his career fourth in the league with 159.5 sacks.
“I kind of been compared to (Peppers) just athletically,” Kpassagnon said after the 17 draft. “I feel like we have the same style of play and the same build, so I watch it more. “
It may take a little patience, but it will mostly be up to Saints’ defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen to get the most out of Kpassagnon. The Saints covet long, powerful defensive ends that can win with their length and speed. Their new veteran addition fits that mold.
Tanoh Kpassagnon is one to watch. In fact, it will be hard to miss.