Without much opposition it's safe to say that the moment that AP nation (mostly) has been waiting for is upon us. Ryan Lilja is coming back to Kansas City, and he may be here to stay. Stampede Blue and Arrowhead Pride (more so) have been following Ryan Lilja very closely since his release.
The original announcement of his scheduled visit here- (Arrowhead Pride)
A quick scroll down to the comments will show you how anxious us Chiefs fans have been and how livid Colts fans have been on the release, and for good reason Lilja is a good player.
Over on Stampede Blue, commenters tout Lilja as the second best offensive lineman in their line up, second only to Jeff Saturday. At only 28, you'd think a staple on the offensive line that just finished a Super Bowl (losing) season would have some job security. Apparently not. Lilja's release could be explained several ways.
Victim of the Tight Wad GM
A lot of people will hope that he was cut for financial reasons The only defense in this argument is that Lilja, by starting every game of the 2009-2010 season, triggered a clause in his contract that upped his salary.
As said in the Indianapolis Star
By starting all 16 games in 2009, Colts LG Ryan Lilja triggered a clause that will return his future salaries to their original levels.Lilja was forced to take a pay-cut missing the 2008 season with knee problems, causing his future base salaries to drop.
However Lilja was payed his entire ($1.7 Million) roster bonus before he was cut. On top of that he made no more than an average starting guard in the NFL even with the pay raise. Making about 3.6 million a year on average, in comparison to other contracts he was getting paid about as much as Wade Smith is now with the Texans.
Victim to "Square Peg, Round Hole"
Another argument is that Lilja simply no longer fit the profile of the type of offensive lineman the Colts are looking for. With now sophomore head coach Jim Caldwell leading the "new look Colts" and new offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars leading it's line, the commitment to getting bigger has taken it's first victim.
Per Lilja's agent following the release;
"[The Colts] said they want to go bigger, and they let him go,’’
At 6'2" 290 lbs. His size and lack of ability to play in a power blocking scheme, ironically has been both the reason Lilja left Kansas City and why he may come back.
Victim to the Injury Bug
Lilja also has had a injury bug plague him in the past with reoccurring knee problems and more recently a back problem.
Adam Caplan tweeted this regarding Lilja's release
That Explains his release. On top of his knee problems, Lilja was also nursing a back injury the week before the Super Bowl.
But the fact that he started every game, in the longest season possible in the NFL (Super Bowl run) has got to at least be promising in regards to Lilja shaking the injury bug.
Victim to the "Kill One Save Many" rule.. Or lopsided play
Over the coarse of Lilja's career he has played extremely well in pass protection but was just "serviceable" in run blocking because of his small frame, even when he played in zone blocking scheme of sorts under Tony Dungy. Regardless it's hard to properly gage Lilja's ability to run block considering the Colts run a 3:1 pass to run offense.
Lilja, along with the rest of the Colts super bowl offensive line, were criticized by Bill Polian following the super bowl
"The offensive line, by our standards, did not have a good game," Polian said. "They were outplayed by the Saints' defensive line, I thought, pretty decisively."
If you follow you'd see he never openly criticizes players. Lilja seemed to be the sacrificial lamb the Colts will use to scare it's players into performing. Think about it, low risk of returning to your division (Jaguars, Titans, and Texans all use power blocking schemes), a big name on your O line, and small potent reasons for cutting him.
Either way I'm happy that he's back in Kansas City for the time being. Considering our current crop of guards, Lilja would be a significant upgrade and would not cost the Chiefs a draft pick either. And you have to believe with Lilja being from Kansas City (not a neighboring city but Kansas City itself) and having played college ball at Kansas State, has a pretty strong fan base (family included) that will be urging him to sign.
In regards to contract expectations against Lilja's demand in the open market.
Caplans tweet referenced above continues on to say
He may have to accept a one-year offer this season to prove that he can stay healthy and effective
In my opinion all he has to do is pass a physical, and we'll have a solid interior lineman for a long time.