Now that the dust has settled on the bulk of the NFL's free agency period, teams are now able to assess their needs heading into the draft in a much more accurate way. For the Kansas City Chiefs, there are obvious spots on the roster to improve and, fortunately, general manger John Dorsey has 10 choices to address those concerns.
One of the Chiefs' assumed holes is at offensive tackle. Eric Fisher has not lived up to his top pick draft status, but he's not going anywhere for now at left tackle.The investment is simply too high with enough reasons to give it another full season of development and analysis. At right tackle, the Chiefs have an open competition between veteran players, including Donald Stephenson and Jeff Allen. It's easy to project the Chiefs to take a tackle early, then, and have that player fill a need at one place or the other.
However, the Chiefs might be better off than most fans realize at the bookend positions, and an early draft pick might not be the best investment overall, despite such predictions from SB Nation's Dan Kadar (who has the Chiefs taking offensive tackle Andrus Peat out of Stanford in the first round).
Every NFL player is aiming for one thing: the big payday. Sure, there are likely some outliers here and there who play for the love of the game, and certainly every player will espouse something like chemistry, teamwork, competition, et al., but it's also clear from the retirement of Chris Borland, for example, that players are also well aware of the price they are paying to play professional football.
My guess is that if you could poll every NFL player, you'd find 98 percent of them would tell you their top motivation for playing is the big payday -- the ability for the player and his family to be set for life by his mid-20s. It's an ultra-rare opportunity that only comes for the most elite of athletes, and it's the chance awaiting two very important players on the Chiefs roster: Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson.
Both Allen and Stephenson should be firmly entrenched as young starters among a line that seemed set for the present and future, but life is never predictable, which means both players are now fighting for their shot. For Stephenson, a four-game suspension ruined the start of his 2014 season, and he never grew into the potential displayed as a swing tackle the previous season even after he returned. For Allen, the circumstances were beyond his control as he lost a full season due to injury.
Now both players are staring at that right tackle spot as their chance to not only forget the frustrations of the previous season but as the payday they've long dreamt of. That's something the Chiefs can likely bank on, since both players, if they are properly advised, should be approaching the offseason accordingly. Chiefs fans should expect to hear short, positive reports from mini-camp and the preseason like, "Donald Stephenson is looking like his old self", or "Jeff Allen is ready to reclaim his spot on the line."
[Author's note: There will be some who want a mention/nod for a player like Derek Sherrod, who the Chiefs signed earlier this offseason, but there's simply no reason to believe he will turn into a potential starter at this stage. Such Kool-Aid drinking will not be endorsed.]
Unless the Chiefs feel strong enough about the present to plant seeds for future assets early in this year's draft, it's likely that the Chiefs can lean on this year's options at tackle.