The Kansas City Chiefs placed left guard Ben Grubbs on Injured Reserve on Wednesday, officially ending his 2015 season after sitting out since the Chiefs defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7. Grubbs had missed the last five games due to a lingering neck injury that Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said needed "at least another month" to heal.
Most of the attention has been on the current state of the offensive line, as John Dorsey makes moves to address some serious concerns of depth (and even starters if there are further injuries). However, there's also the bigger picture question about what this injury means to Grubbs' future with the Chiefs.
The Chiefs traded a 2015 5th round draft choice to the New Orleans Saints for Grubbs in a deal to solidify the left side of the line. After a season of miserable guard play (e.g. the Season o' McGlynn), it was easy to see why Dorsey pulled the trigger on the trade for Grubbs, a second round investment in Mitch Morse and the signing of Paul Fanaika. A complete reset of the offensive interior was needed.
Shortly after trading for Grubbs, Dorsey also inked the former Pro Bowler to an extension for four years at $24 million ($8 mill guaranteed), since the Chiefs needed to rework the financial end to make it work in a bad cap situation. It also means Grubbs is pretty pricey heading into the 2016 season.
"The $6.3 million cap figure is a pretty big number for a player who plays the left side of the line, regardless of age or injury," says Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap. "Grubbs has been a good player and there are a handful of players who will have cap figures in that range -- Logan Mankins, Marshal Yanda -- who have a similar history, but for many this is the age where the contracts often go down or the player moves into retirement, either by his choice or by the league's choice.
"That being said the Chiefs knew this when they traded for Grubbs and then signed him to that new deal," he continues. "My guess is they looked at the $4.9 million salary next year as a reasonable risk for a 32-year-old player [next March], but had no choice with how to move the cap hits in the contract given their lack of cap space in 2015."
Because of the heavy amount of dead money ($5.2 million) in 2016 if Grubbs is cut, Fitzgerald believes he's likely to stay in house.
"I dont think it's likely they will cut him. One million of his salary is guaranteed even if he is cut and the cap space saved is just $1.1 million," he said. "When you factor in replacing him on the roster the savings are really none. Maybe they can try to renegotiate his contract down by rolling some salary into incentives but most likely he will be back next year on his current contract."
That line of thinking fits well with the Chiefs personnel decisions heading into the offseason. The Chiefs retain both Zach Fulton and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif as guard options on the roster in 2016 along with Paul Fanaika, who will return from injury. Jeff Allen is a free agent who will have his suitors since offensive linemen, especially versatile ones, will fetch a premium.
It should also be noted that Grubbs has been a steady performer throughout his career, missing only six starts over the last seven years. Given his age and injury, his skills could certainly be in decline, but he might also give the Chiefs a dependable veteran starter.
If anything, with Grubbs, Fanaika, Fulton and LDT, the Chiefs can at least head into the offseason with options rather than forcing something one way or another. That's much better than the previous year when something -- anything -- would have served as an upgrade.
Many thanks to Jason Fitzgerald from Over the Cap for answering our questions. If you've not yet checked out OTC, it's a great resource for insight into some often overlooked or misunderstood topics when dealing with NFL rosters and transactions.