The Kansas City Chiefs are expected to do everything in their power to keep star pass-rusher Justin Houston from reaching NFL free agency in March.

Even so, they may already be eyeing a potential replacement for the prolific backer via the 2015 NFL Draft.

"I presently rank Bernardrick McKinney at outside linebacker and so do a number of teams. Sources tell me the Kansas City Chiefs are considering McKinney as a possible replacement for Justin Houston who they may lose in free agency," Tony Pauline of Draft Insider reported.

Houston of course, went absolutely bonkers last season, racking up 22 sacks and 68 tackles in a contract year. He's set to break the proverbial bank, most likely with the Chiefs, but possibly in another NFL destination should his contract demands prove too astronomical and Kansas City GM John Dorsey decide that the tag figure - estimated to be somewhere in or around the $14.78 million for defensive ends and $13.17 million for linebackers - too significant.

McKinney is an absolute beast physically - 6-foot-4, 246-pounds - who anchored the defense for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

While he didn't quite put on a show at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, he did himself a few favors by timing at 4.66 seconds in the 40-yard dash and posting one of the best vertical jumps, 40.5 inches, for a linebacker.

He played inside for Mississippi State, leading the Bulldogs in tackles the past two years, so it's particularly interesting that Pauline and others in the NFL view him has an outside linebacker. He's shown the ability to get into the backfield and create havoc though, finishing second on the team last season with eight tackles for loss and 3 sacks, so he's certainly got the size and skill to get after the quarterback.

Questions also have come up about his football instincts and ability to navigate the "trash" behind the line; something that wouldn't be as much of a concern was he to end up playing outside as opposed to inside at the NFL level.