Chiefs prioritize change in offensive line room
A big concern for the Chiefs this offseason has been their offensive line.
After Kansas City released tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz to save $18.25 million in salary cap space, the Chiefs have been left with big shoes to fill.
With Fisher and Schwartz gone, the line won’t likely resemble anything like last year’s starting five in the season opener. Austin Reiter, who started at center, is a free agent. Guard Kelechi Osemele, on a one-year contract, was hurt early and missed the rest of the season.
Wylie, the starting right guard in the opener last year who was forced to start at right tackle in the Super Bowl loss, is back after signing as a free agent. Guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is expected to return after opting out last year to help in the COVID-19 battle. Nick Allegretti, who filled in at left guard with the injury to Osemele, may move to center.
Martinas Rankin returns and is an option at tackle but has been hampered by multiple injuries and has rarely seen the field. And the Chiefs re-signed the versatile Mike Remmers, who played right tackle after Schwartz was injured and moved to the left side for the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs also spent big money on free agents Joe Thuney, an All-Pro with New England, and the once retired Kyle Long, a three-time Pro Bowl selection with the Bears.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid isn’t panicking.
"That door always remains open. These guys did it the right way here. Then, the addition with Joe Thuney, Kyle Long, (defensive tacke) Jarran Reed, we've added a few people in here, and Brett Veach isn't done," Reid said. "You know how he rolls, he's very aggressive and he's staying on top of his game. We get Larry (Duvernay-Tardif) back, so that's a nice positive to add into that offensive line mix. So, I think we've got a pretty good nucleus there."
A two-time Super Bowl champion, Thuney has started every possible game since entering the league in 2016. Reid believes he offers a lot of flexibility.
"He can play either guard or center and do it at a Pro Bowl level. He's arguably one of the better guards in the league right now," Reid said. "He comes from a great culture from New England, understands what it takes to be on a winning team and keep that winning going forward, so we welcomed him aboard with that and thought it was important to get him."
Reid added there's currently a number of options of players in the mix to play at the left tackle position, including last year’s third-round draft pick, Lucas Niang, who opted out last season because of COVID-19 concerns.
"We're fitting that through, but we had aspirations of potentially moving Niang over to that spot. He looked like he had some potential for that when we had him last,” Reid said. “Obviously, Kyle (Long) has that flex to be able to do something like that. He's played inside too. The majority of the time he played inside, but he wasn't bad on the outside either. Then, we've got guys coming back. Whether it's Rem (Mike Remmers) or whether it's Andrew (Wylie), we've got guys that also have flexibility to play in those spots.”
Even with all the shifts, Patrick Mahomes is confident with the offensive line room.
"Guys that are ready to compete, guys that played last year and guys that have a lot of experience coming in and that breeds competition and you love that. That's in every room in this locker room is competition and you're going to go out there and compete and try to earn your way to earning a spot and try to find a way to be the best player you can be to try to get us to the Super Bowl," Mahomes said.
As time inches closer for the 2021 NFL Draft, the Chiefs are expected to make moves to support their offensive line, but Reid said they're open to anything.
"I wouldn't tell you at any position that we're done looking. We're always going to keep our eyes open and try to make ourselves better, which we need to do. We've got to do that. When you're sitting in our position you're not just striving to stay the same, you're trying to get yourself better," Reid said.
The Chiefs hold the 31st pick in the first round and have eight selections in the NFL Draft, which kicks off at 7 p.m. April 29.