How the Chiefs' offensive line could change for 2020
It’s been nearly two months since the Kansas City Chiefs left Miami with the Lombardi Trophy, and since then, a few things have changed.
Despite the global pandemic and the nationwide shutdown of sports, plenty of roster moves have taken place for the reigning Super Bowl champions. As other teams around the league try to get a piece of a championship team, new faces could be seen in virtually every position group. But as of right now, one room still looks pretty familiar.
The offensive line faced its fair share of injuries last season, but the original core currently remains intact. With less than a month before the NFL Draft is scheduled to kick off, its future is uncertain.
The Chiefs had nine offensive linemen on their 53-man roster after training camp last year, beginning with tackle Eric Fisher, guard Andrew Wylie, center Austin Reiter, guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and tackle Mitchell Schwartz as the starters.
Behind the starting line, Cameron Erving, Martinas Rankin, Ryan Hunter and rookie Nick Allegretti assumed backup roles. Injuries to Rankin and Wylie led the Chiefs to sign free agent Stefen Wisniewski, who started five games, including all three playoff games after stepping in for the injured Wylie.
Wisniewski departed the club via free agency as the guard signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a two-year $2.85 million deal, leaving the Chiefs shorthanded at the guard spot.
At this point in free agency, the Chiefs have maintained their starting five, but allowed Erving to walk after choosing not to exercise their option after the 2019 season, freeing up $3.2 million in cap space.
The Chiefs added free agent lineman Mike Remmers, who started 14 games for the New York Giants in 2019. Remmers adds experience, as the eight-year veteran has started at every position on the line. The addition of Remmers could bolster the second-stringers as a possibility to fill in across the line, but most likely as the Chiefs’ new swing tackle in Erving’s absence.
Although Allegretti is a largely unknown quantity, Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ staff trusted the then-rookie out of Illinois to be active during the Chiefs’ Super Bowl run. This was presumably due to his ability to play at either guard spot or center in event of an injury. Now, Allegretti could be in the conversation for a larger role on the line.
Kansas City brought back Wylie as an exclusive rights free agent with a team-friendly $750,000 cap hit. While it may seem that one guard position is Wylie’s to win back, Rankin, who was acquired from the Houston Texans in the Carlos Hyde trade, could be in contention for the spot as well, depending on the timeline for his return from his season-ending patella injury.
Not only could Rankin provide competition at the guard spot for Wylie, but the 25-year-old could add some flexibility if the Chiefs move on from Duvernay-Tardif.
Duvernay-Tardif presents an interesting situation for the Chiefs, as the Canadian doctor is coming off a less-than-stellar season as the Chiefs’ starting right guard. After the 2016 season, Duvernay-Tardif signed a five-year $42 million contract extension, but in 2018, LDT’s season was interrupted by a Maisonneuve fracture in his fibula, an injury that kept him out for the majority of the year.
Now, the 29-year-old guard touts a hefty contract, as he currently carries an $8.9 million salary cap hit into next season, and Kansas City is faced with a decision. Cutting Duvernay-Tardif before June 1 would free up $4.9 million in cap space, but they would carry a $4 million dead cap hit as a result.
When the dust settles and training camps begin, the interior offensive line could become an even larger conversation. The outside is more than solid, as the team returns two of Pro Football Focus’ top three pass-protecting tackles in Fisher and Schwartz.
Across the line, the guard positions are where the future looks a bit cloudy. I anticipate Duvernay-Tardif to retain his starting position and return to his earlier-career form as he has another offseason to get healthy. On the other side, Rankin will provide great competition but will likely back up as Wylie will also reclaim the starting position he took into 2019.
At center, Reiter has proved to be sufficient enough at the position to more-than-likely claim the starting role for the second-straight season. Allegretti can give Reiter some genuine competition in the final year of his deal.
While it’s possible that the Chiefs could look to the draft, I don’t believe finding another offensive lineman in the early rounds of the draft is the right answer. The group has the right mix of veterans and youth for next year’s campaign. I expect Kansas City to keep Duvernay-Tardif for at least another season as they draft a developmental lineman through the draft.