The Kansas City Chiefs enter the 2016 offseason with a clear need for another offensive tackle. They have the former No. 1 pick, the veteran who can play multiple positions, the practice squad hopeful and the guy who went on IR last year that no one really knows about. And they need more.
The Chiefs offensive line was a problem at plenty of times throughout the 2015 season. Yes, the Chiefs schemed around the line's deficiencies and they generally did OK considering what they were working with (like Jah Reid, signed a week before the season to play tackle, playing guard instead).
But it wasn't enough. The Chiefs offensive line has to be better. It felt like they got absolutely everything they could out of last year's group when you account for all the injuries. The offense was as efficient as it could be with that line. They simply need more talent on the line.
Specifically, the Chiefs need a starting right tackle. I like the depth that Jah Reid and Paul Fanaika provide as swing tackles but the Chiefs should provide him competition to start. The Chiefs don't seem very likely to drop big money on a starting tackle in free agency so I'm wondering if they're going to draft someone and expect this group to figure it out next year. Additionally, Eric Fisher's future is murky after this year so that must be factored in.
Let's take a look at everyone.
Eric Fisher: Once you adjust your expectations and stop looking at him as the No. 1 pick, you see that Fisher has gotten better each year. He's not an All-Pro and we're not expecting him to get there but he was mostly competent last season. That's where we're at and you're just going to be upset until you accept that (even though, yes, it would be cool if he were a perennial All-Pro).
The real question with Fisher is whether the Chiefs pick up his fifth-year option in May, which will be more than $10 million for 2017. It's guaranteed only for injury meaning the Chiefs can get out of it next year if Fisher doesn't have an injury that affects his 2017 season. However, that's still a lot of money. More than what the Chiefs would want to pay Fisher, which makes me wonder if he's a candidate for an extension at some point.
The bottom line is that there aren't a lot of good offensive tackles out there. Absent finding someone better, the Chiefs should prepare to bring him back after 2016.
Jah Reid: He was signed a week before the season but by the end of the season he had signed a three-year, $10.25 million contract, which means we can assume he has a roster spot in 2016. We also assumed that roster spot would be at right tackle, which is where he lined up most of the time this season. However, Reid then lined up at guard late in the season and actually looked OK. It's a small sample size but I'd argue he should be at guard rather than tackle, where he had his issues. The bottom line is that Reid isn't ideal as a starting right tackle but he does provide solid depth that can be valuable throughout a long season.
Jarrod Pughsley: You're hoping that Pughsley, who spent most of the year on the practice squad, can step in and play the reserve / sometimes starting lineman role this year that Jah Reid and Donald Stephenson played at times. He can play guard and tackle but we haven't seen him enough to know what his best position is. The Chiefs brought him to the team in 2014 and he stuck with it until he was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster late last season. The Chiefs have some time invested in him.
Paul Fanaika: Another unknown, Fanaika signed a three-year, $6.5 million deal prior to the 2015 season and landed on IR before the season got going. Our Cardinals blog last year wrote that "he should be considered a fringe starter who is solid depth." Like Reid and Pughsley, he has experience at guard and tackle. He could be competing with one of those two for a roster spot.
Donald Stephenson (free agent): Stephenson, who started seven games last year, seems like a perfect candidate to sign a one-year prove-it deal in KC or somewhere else. Go out and win the starting job and earn himself a big contract in free agency in 2017. I still think the ceiling is high with him.
Jeff Allen (free agent): I would love for the Chiefs to re-sign him but we gave up on the Chiefs re-signing their own linemen. He lined up at guard in 2015 but the Chiefs did try him at tackle before that, so we include here in our tackle preview. The pros with Allen is that he's a smart dude who can play all five positions on the line (yes, even center). He wants to focus on one position in free agency but he has that type of versatility. The cons are the injuries, which have limited him to nine starts in the past two seasons. He also had his best season in a contract year which you have to consider. If healthy, he's a good addition to someone's line.
Laurence Gibson / Reid Fragel: These are practice squad players. Total unknown.
Free agency / draft: The Chiefs need to replenish the offensive line. Offensive tackles are the hardest to find and the most expensive in free agency so the Chiefs should find one of those in the draft. I like the idea of this being a day two pick - second or third round.