John Dorsey has some decisions to make.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a number of important free agents looming this offseason, and an interesting case can be found on the offensive line in Jeff Allen. The former second round pick has proven very valuable in this contract season, an able-bodied lineman who can play both guard and tackle, both left and right.
The current options
Looking at the Chiefs line for 2016 and Allen's potential place within it, there are already several familiar faces guaranteed to return. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Zach Fulton and Mitch Morse are all interior players set to return. Ben Grubbs is likely to return, for reasons we've already explained. Paul Fanaika is in play after signing a three-year deal last offseason, but he'll be making more than the trio of aforementioned youngsters combined, so there's a chance he could be cut. Still, that's four or five interior linemen returning on top of potential prospects or those developmental players already in house.
All things considered, Allen makes the most sense if the Chiefs feel like he could potentially start at right tackle with his versatility being an added bonus. Donald Stephenson falls into the same category as an unrestricted free agent, but it's hard to picture the Chiefs investing in him as a starter considering Allen and Jah Reid have beaten him out for the right tackle spot this year.
The price tag
Looking ahead at 2016 and beyond, Dorsey needs to decide his interest level in Allen as well as a potential price point. When it comes to the latter, Nick Korte of Over the Cap believes Allen's price tag will fall somewhere around a 4-year, $17-21 million deal. Korte explains:
Injuries have hampered Allen during his rookie contract, but for his contract year he has proven useful for a Kansas City line that's been able to keep its offense producing even with the loss of skill players like Jamaal Charles to injury. Should the Chiefs let him walk, Allen's versatility in transitioning from guard to right tackle may intrigue some teams looking for an offensive line upgrade without aggressively breaking the bank.
Korte's prediction seems spot-on because Allen's situation mirrors that of Geoff Schwartz just two offseasons ago. Schwartz avoided injury to become a vital, versatile player up front for the Chiefs, playing in all 16 games and starting 7. Schwartz parlayed that into a 4-year, $16.8 million deal with the New York Giants, even with a questionable injury history and several less starts than Allen.
Let's make some predictions about the bigger picture.
- Paul Fanaika finds himself cut after an entire missed season due to injury.
- Ben Grubbs, Mitch Morse and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif stay in place as starters, with Zach Fulton in place as a versatile back-up rather than supplanting Morse to guard.
- Donald Stephenson walks.
- Chiefs make significant draft investment in another offensive tackle.
If all of this happens, I think the Chiefs make every effort to re-sign Jeff Allen, and Korte's figures seem right in comparison with Schwartz and others around the NFL. I'll guess on the higher side since tackles will get a premium over interior linemen and guess 4-years, $22 million. Hopefully the $5.5 million average is high, but with the raised cap and Allen's versatility, I think the Chiefs will have to pay. Given his skill set and familiarity with the offense, however, I think it's worth it.
One thing to remember is that Grubbs is a likely cut after the 2016 season, which means Allen can move back to left guard if desired after next season. If the Chiefs pick up another solid tackle prospect, it also gives them options with Eric Fisher's looming free agency. And, of course, injuries could change every bit of this.
The Chiefs have difficult decisions to make along the line, but Allen, at the right price, is an easier one than others. Hopefully he stays a part of the offensive front for the next few years.