If you have something valuable, you want to protect it. Whether it is money, gold, or a once-in-a-generation talent at quarterback, you want to keep it safe and secure. The best way to do this is by putting a barrier between the valued commodity and the potential threat. For over 11,500 years, mankind has been building walls of protection like those in Mesopotamia at the temple of Gobeki Tepe in Urfa, southeast Turkey.
With the same mindset of ancient civilizations, the Kansas City Chiefs are erecting a wall to protect theirs and the game’s most treasured commodity in Patrick Mahomes. With inflation happening everywhere and free agency tending to hike prices, erecting, and sustaining a highly competent offensive line is a difficult challenge in the National Football League. When salary caps and expenditures are tight, often teams will place their emphasis on securing the building blocks for their offensive line in the NFL draft.
The Kanas City Chiefs have utilized both approaches this offseason. Let’s look at the additions and returning starters for the newly constructed wall of protection for the Kansas City Chiefs. The most glorified offensive line position is the tackle position (specifically left tackle). We will start there.
Whose departure caused the vacancy at the left tackle position? The answer is Orlando Brown. Brown was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs towards the end of his rookie deal and played out the final year of his rooking contract with the franchise. In 2021, the Kansas City Chiefs placed the franchise tag on Orlando Brown, and he was paid $16.7 million. After the 2021 season, the Chiefs offered Orlando Brown a contract extension for reportedly six years and around $139 million, and he decided to turn that offer down. Unfortunately for Brown, betting on himself did not work as he wanted. It is reported that Orlando Brown signed with the Cincinnati Bengals for four years at a little over $64 million.
Who will replace him? That question most likely won’t be completely answered until the conclusion of training camp. Originally, it was thought that free agent acquisition Jawaan Taylor (formerly Jacksonville’s starting right tackle) would transition over to the left tackle position for the Chiefs. After weeks of speculation, it appears this will not be the case, because the Kansas City Chiefs recently signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneer starting left tackle Donovan Smith. Hampered with injuries during the 2022 season, Donovan Smith did not perform as highly as expected. This is a Brett Veach-type move on a player that performed very well in the 2021 season before underperforming last year due to injury.
If Smith is playing left tackle, then Jawaan Taylor is for sure starting a right tackle, right? Again, this appears to be the case, but we won’t truly know until the conclusion of training camp. We know that Kansas City has added depth to the tackle position. According to ESPN.com, the Chiefs’ depth chart options at left tackle are Prince Tega Wanogho and Sebastian Gutierrez. On the depth chart at the right tackle position, ESPN.com has Lucas Niang and the 92nd pick in the 2023 NFL draft, Wanya Morris, as the next option.
Just like last season with the Chiefs’ receiving core, fans have many questions and concerns regarding restructuring the offensive line. What should give them solace is that Brett Veach has proven that his plans are multifaceted and full of countermeasures. In my personal opinion, I believe the offensive line will be an improvement from last year. What??? Yes. This is why. The strength of the offensive line is the three beasts anchored in the middle. Center Creed Humphrey, left guard Joe Thuney, and right guard Trey Smith are arguably the best core of an offensive line in the NFL. If not the best, they are at worst in the top 5. The core’s stregnth allows the offense to scheme protection to help either tackle until they get up to speed with the rest of the offense.
Another reason for fans to stop panicking is that Patrick Mahomes is one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the National Football League. Even though Orlando Brown proved to be a serviceable right tackle, the opinion of most fans was that he wasn’t worth the contract Kansas City offered Brown at the end of the 2021 season. With that said, Mahomes does not need a top-10 left tackle to stay protected and upright. He needs an athletic big man who can handle the speed of NFL-caliber edge rushers most of the time.
At the end of the day, the Chiefs are in a similar place this off-season as they were last off-season. There is a sense of rebuild regarding the offensive line. Also, there is a sense of rebuilding on the defensive line with the loss of Frank Clark, Khalen Saunders, and Carlos Dunlap (even though there is a chance to re-sign Clark or Dunlap). Can Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, and Brett Veach pull off the unthinkable again? We must wait and see. If this past season has taught us anything, it should be patience and faith. We should not doubt the personnel decisions of Brett Veach, the remarkable play calling of Andy Reid, and the relentless will to win of Patrick Mahomes.
I predict the Kansas City Chiefs will have a 13-4 record this coming season. This record should be good enough to retain the #1 overall seed in the AFC. With the AFC East getting bolstered by the addition of Aaron Rodgers to the Jets and having the up-and-coming Dolphins, the division’s teams will beat each other up. Also, with the signing of Lamar Jackson and the continued evolution of Kenny Pickett, the AFC South is going to be an equally daunting task for the team wanting to win that division, as well.