Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The Chiefs' decision to release Eric Winston and potentially trade Branden Albert is a head-scratcher at this point in the Chiefs offseason.
It's important to note from the outset that I believe the Kansas City Chiefs have a master plan in place. The downside, at this point, is that such a plan is indecipherable, at least from what I can tell.
When new head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey came over from the Eagles and Packers respectively to take over the Kansas City Chiefs, the pair immediately began to assess the organization from top to bottom. From assistant coaches to scouting staff to active roster, every aspect of the organization was placed under the microscope to see exactly what they already had in house.
This is nothing new. Teams do this all the time, regardless of a new regime or not. In any organization or system, inventory must be taken to figure out what changes, if any, need to be made. It's dangerous and frankly irresponsible to do otherwise. The Chiefs had the worst record in the NFL, so it's obvious that changes will be made. But deals cannot be made for the sake of change, and Reid and Dorsey are clearly aware of that.
So it's clear that the new front office went over the roster with a fine-tooth comb to sort of specific strengths and weaknesses and develop a short- and long-term plan for success.
That said, I have only one major question with the implementation of that plan so far: What are they thinking at offensive tackle?
Coming into this offseason, one position was singled out as the major need to address. In fact, the Chiefs need at quarterback might have been the single biggest need for any team in the NFL after such a disastrous season. It's no surprise that Reid and Dorsey acted decisively to shore up the position with major moves. Like it or not, the team had a plan and acted accordingly.
A team only has so many resources at its disposal each offseason. There's only so much cap room to go around for potential free agents, and there are only so many draft choices. A last place team might not get to fill every hole or address every weakness in a single offseason. That said, the powers-that-be must use their resources wisely and target what they can change at the best value.
It's baffling, then, that the Chiefs have chosen to zero in on the offensive tackle position out of all of them to completely remake on the roster. Quarterback changes were expected, but offensive tackle was the curveball that has thrown everyone. Instead of bringing back respected veteran tackles on both sides for the new expensive investment at quarterback, the team decided to get rid of Eric Winston and now Branden Albert, who is expected to sign his franchise tender soon, is rumored to be available in a trade for the right price.
At this point, it's a decent bet that the Chiefs will move Albert in a deal for more draft assets. Numerous mock drafts tie the Chiefs to Texas A&M lineman Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher with the first pick overall, so it's not as if the team will have a porous line. The problem is that the team was already respectable at that position with other needs to fill. From the secondary to defensive line depth to middle linebacker to wideout, the Chiefs have multiple areas to focus on in both free agency and the draft.
Out of all of the positions to completely remake on the roster, the Chiefs have targeted quarterback and offensive tackle. The first makes sense. The second is baffling. Geoff Schwartz was just signed as a free agent guard/tackle, and he made it clear in comments that the competition is open.
"I think there is competition on the offensive line. Right tackle is open right now. There's not anyone really there, but besides that, I really like Coach Reid," said Schwartz.
Donald Stephenson, the team's third round choice from last year, is on the roster and now Schwartz joins him. Albert is still a Chief, and the team could use the first overall selection on another tackle. So all is not lost and Albert has not been traded yet. It's possible the Chiefs remain just fine with Albert and Joeckel starting with solid depth behind in Stephenson and Schwartz.
However, it's also a possibility that the Chiefs go into the 2013 regular season with neither starter from last year. It's understandable that Dorsey and Reid might have wanted different linemen over the long haul to match the offensive schemes they want to develop on the roster. However to look at Albert and Winston and say, "These are the guys above any others who have to go" is quite confusing.
Perhaps Albert and the Chiefs just can't agree on a long-term deal. Maybe Winston is a subpar right tackle despite the press and the Chiefs will be better off. But memories of years of Barry Richardson on the right side and the importance of the tackle position overall make it hard to see how these are the moves needed in the first offseason under a new regime.
In the long run, we might see the plan laid out. For now it's a series of frustrating questions.