The Kansas City Chiefs appear to have their starting center locked up for the 2021 season, signing center Austin Blythe to a one-year deal, according to multiple reports.
First reported by Nate Taylor of The Athletic, Blythe joins the team as an apparent replacement for center Austin Reiter, who was connected to a series of reports indicating that the team would part ways with Reiter this offseason, followed by reports that both sides were mulling over a reunion. Now, the Chiefs appear to be passing the keys from one Austin to another, with Blythe likely to be the clear-cut starter in the middle of the offense.
Blythe — a seventh-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Iowa — started at guard for the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the Rams before moving to center in 2020. Given the state of the Chiefs' guard position (where they have four or five quality players currently on the roster) and the state of their center position (where they have zero quality players), Blythe is all but a certainty to immediately become the Chiefs' incumbent center.
This will be Blythe's second consecutive one-year deal to play center, and on a year-long deal like this, the Chiefs can (and in my opinion, should) still look to draft a center of the future in the upcoming NFL Draft without relying on a rookie to start in the middle of the offensive line.
This move also completes a total overhaul of the Chiefs' 2020 offensive line, where Reiter seemed to be the last candidate to potentially reprise his role in 2021. Now, with Joe Thuney at left guard, Blythe at center and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif or Kyle Long at right guard, the entire interior will be vastly different than it looked at any point in 2020. Plus, with uncertainty still at left tackle and Lucas Niang competing with Mike Remmers at right tackle, the edges will have new opening-day starters as well, with Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz being released earlier this offseason.
I'm slow to proclaim this move as a clear upgrade over Reiter's recent performance at center, but it does provide the Chiefs something that Reiter may not have offered: future flexibility. As Taylor recently mentioned on an episode of the Time's Ours podcast, all signs pointed towards Reiter searching for a multi-year deal, while the Chiefs have held out for a one-year commitment. Blythe's single-year contract provides just that, allowing the Chiefs to look for a future upgrade with present stability.