There has been a lot of talk throughout the offseason about the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line. Since losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl, when Patrick Mahomes was clearly uncomfortable in the pocket all game, Kansas City has largely retooled their O-line.
The Chiefs signed former Patriot Joe Thuney, brought veteran guard Kyle Long out of retirement, and traded for Ravens’ Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. While much has been made of the additions along the offensive line, plenty of questions linger.
Joe Thuney was a member of the Patriots’ 2010s all-decade team and has started every game for the Patriots since being drafted in 2016. Thuney has been one of the most consistent linemen since entering the league. Kansas City rewarded that consistency with a five-year, $80 million contract this offseason to lure him away from New England.
What do the Patriots have to gain from losing a young, Pro Bowl-quality lineman while they rebuild in the post-Brady era? While New England may be financially averse to paying out to a lineman when they have other roster needs, there may be more to the story than New England is letting on, perhaps involving health or locker-room issues. We’ve seen this before with New England letting high-quality players leave right before a big payday.
In 2017, the Patriots let 29-year-old Nate Solder hit free agency. He signed with the New York Giants for a monster payday. They then signed Trent Brown on a one-year contract and won the Super Bowl. The Patriots have time and again passed on giving out big contracts and let other teams take the risk. Along with that, not many Patriots players have found continued success once they sign big free-agent contracts.
The next major uncertainty is Orlando Brown Jr.’s versatility. During his time in Baltimore, Brown refused to play right tackle due to his wish to protect the blind side. His refusal to play right tackle ultimately led to his trade to Kansas City. While this doesn’t spell certain doom for the offensive line at large, what does Brown’s refusal to shift around the line mean if other starters have to miss time?
Kansas City moved on from trading for or signing other tackles who may have been more versatile than Brown. His stubbornness, especially given the current NFL trend toward a more carousel-style offensive line, could limit the depth of the whole unit. While his love of the left tackle position is admirable and he has proven his worth thus far in his NFL career, the Chiefs need versatility and depth, not players who refuse to shift around when needed.
Considering the payday Brown will command from the Chiefs when they extend him, Kansas City may be spending a sizable chunk of their cap space on a player who can’t set aside his own wants for the betterment of his position group and the team as a whole.
The Chiefs’ offensive line should be among the best in the league — if they stay healthy. However, should Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Long, or any other important depth players have to miss time, this offensive line could become just as questionable as the one that started the Super Bowl.
Kansas City could have trouble early on if the new additions don’t have enough time to develop in the shortened preseason and the core linemen don’t have enough playing time to find some cohesion. Given Brown’s unwillingness to play the other tackle spot, Thuney leaving the only team he’s ever known, and the lack of playing time across the offensive line, this unit could be the reason one of the league’s best offenses can’t get off the ground in 2021.