The first set of Kansas City Chiefs has reported to training camp in St. Joseph, MO, and everyone else arrives at Missouri Western State University this week. That group of "everyone else" may not include left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., however.
Head coach Andy Reid has made it perfectly clear that the team won't wait around for Patrick Mahomes's blindside protector, and he's unsure of whether Brown will be a participant in camp after the team failed to agree with him and his agent on a contract extension. Pessimism right before that July 15 deadline led some to believe that Brown skipping some or all of training camp — or even time into the regular season — is a legitimate possibility, so Kansas City still has to be prepared for that to happen. If it does, who could step in to replace him? Let's take a look at some prime candidates.
1. Geron Christian
Let's address the elephant in the room: Geron Christian isn't even guaranteed to make the Chiefs' 53-man roster out of camp. Many are leaving him out of their roster projections, so why would he suddenly become the No. 1 left tackle on the team in the event of Brown being absent? Experience, health and recent success are three decent reasons why.
Christian, a third-round pick by the Washington Commanders, is entering his fifth season in the NFL and is now on his third team in as many years. After getting off to a very solid start with the Houston Texans last season, Christian closed out the campaign with a 78.8 Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade. That ranked 15th among all qualified tackles in the NFL and was right in line with Brown's mark for the year.
From a pass protection standpoint, Christian could step in and help the Chiefs experience minimal dropoff from Brown. Run blocking is where he struggled immensely last season, though, which would present a trade-off for Reid and company to assess. Still, if the Chiefs need a decent veteran pass blocker, he'd be a suitable choice. He shouldn't be discounted on such a wide scale just yet.
2. Joe Thuney
When Reid spoke last week, he made it a point to mention that left guard Joe Thuney could step in and play left tackle if he had to. Heck, he even did so late last season and had a very quality game in the absence of Brown. Even with little experience at the position (and possibly still battling a broken hand from earlier in the season), Thuney showed that he's capable being kicked out from his normal spot. If need be, he can do it again this year.
There's even a soft argument to be made for the Chiefs getting more value out of Thuney at left tackle. His record-setting contract at left guard is less than ideal despite him being worth it, but paying him top guard dollar to serve as a tackle would be the Chiefs getting the most bang for their buck. On the downside, moving Thuney away from center Creed Humphrey could put the second-year lineman at a bit more of a disadvantage. Much like the trade-off with Christian at left tackle, there's one for Thuney being there as well. From strictly an ability standpoint, on the other hand, it makes some sense.
3. Jason Peters
This month, 40-year-old Jason Peters said he wants to give the NFL another run this season. He doesn't have a strong preference between a ready-made unit and a young one (the Chiefs have a mix of both) and wants to win (the Chiefs can give him that). He also has familiarity with Reid, whose old Philadelphia Eagles traded for him years ago. If that, combined with some uncertainty surrounding Brown, isn't a near-perfect storm... there may not be one for the veteran tackle.
As far as ability is concerned, Peters certainly isn't what he once was. With that said, he did grade out as Pro Football Focus' 22nd tackle last season. A top 25 producer is a player who can play on just about any NFL offensive line, especially if he's stepping in at such a premium position. Unlike Thuney (or even Christian, to a lesser extent), however, Peters would have quite the learning curve entering a new system. The familiarity with Reid helps, but this version of the Chiefs' offensive attack isn't what Peters has been used to. With all of that said, if Kansas City is intrigued by the idea of scouring the free agent market for help, Peters should be at or near the top of their list.
Honorable mention: Eric Fisher, Andrew Wylie, Lucas Niang
On that short list of potential free agent additions should also be former Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher. Fisher, who morphed into a solid lineman for Kansas City until tearing his Achilles tendon late in the 2020 season, wasn't nearly the same player in 2021-22 with the Indianapolis Colts. As a result, it remains to be seen if he can bounce back this year. That avenue could still be worth pursuing, though.
Outside of Fisher and the aforementioned group, there's always the option of putting veteran Andrew Wylie in at left tackle. The quality of play in his sample size there isn't particularly good, however, so he's likely more of a last resort option. Lucas Niang is currently on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and is a primary right tackle when on the field. In an ideal world, neither of the latter players sees reps at left tackle this season, and even banking on Fisher to return to form would be an insanely huge risk. At any rate, including the options mentioned above, the Chiefs have a wide spectrum of replacements to consider should Brown have an extended holdout.