If I told you an NFL team had an offensive line that featured the following players, would you assume it's a good or bad group?
LT: Branden Albert
LG: Jeff Allen
C: Rodney Hudson
RG: Geoff Schwartz
RT: Donald Stephenson
Backups: Jon Asamoah, Eric Winston, Ryan Lilja, Eric Kush, Ryan Harris
This is a list of linemen that have WALKED in free agency since John Dorsey arrived in Kansas City.
I'm not arguing that these were all bad decisions or that the team could have afforded to keep them all. However, it seems like a significant trend that good linemen - we'll quantify "good" based on how well they've been paid in free agency - have been allowed to leave while the Chiefs have struggled to get consistent play from their big uglies.
Shouldn't the Chiefs offensive line have been better than it was?
When Chiefs coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey were hired, most of us thought they were inheriting an offensive line that had most of the pieces in place. Someone said on Twitter at the time that a total rebuild of the Chiefs offensive line was coming. I didn't believe it. I was wrong.
It's clear that John Dorsey and Andy Reid want to build an offensive line full of versatile, nasty, athletic guys. And he wants to do so through the draft and budget free agents.
Dorsey actually has invested in the line, using a No. 1 overall pick (Eric Fisher), a second round pick (Mitch Morse) and two sixth round picks (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Zach Fulton) in the last three years, not to mention trading a fifth for a guard (Ben Grubbs). He's also been churning the depth with veteran free agents (Geoff Schwartz, Jah Reid) and undrafted free agents.
Based on the results in the second half of 2015, it would seem the Chiefs are finally getting more out of their blockers, and almost have enough depth up front to keep winning despite multiple injuries. It could be that Dorsey's guys are a better fit than Pioli's guys.
The projected 2016 offensive line featuring Fisher, Grubbs, Morse and Jah Reid has the potential to be good, and are currently much cheaper than our Chiefs free agent group above would be.
Or maybe Reid's coaches are better? "Andy Heck is one of the best position coaches in the league... That offensive line shouldn't be as good as it was." Robert Mays, who writes for SI's MMQB said on his podcast "Andy Heck's name doesn't come up enough. He's done a remarkable job with the offensive line in Kansas City."
There are a few potential lines of thinking that explain the way the Chiefs are building their offensive line.
Is Dorsey content with a subpar offensive line because he's not willing to pay good players to stay?
We'll see once Eric Fisher's contract is addressed but he did spend money on Grubbs, Reid and Fanaika.
Is Dorsey just completing the rebuild by bringing in his own guys?
Allen and Stephenson are the last of the linemen from Pioli's regime. Perhaps the trend of high turnover ends this year?
Maybe those other teams simply overpaid those former Chiefs linemen and Dorsey was wise to let them go and draft their replacements.
Schwartz, Asamoah and Winston have all left the teams who signed them away from KC, perhaps indicating that it didn't really work out. Even though both have played well, it's also easy to make a case that Hudson and Albert are overpaid, especially given Albert's health issues.
Perhaps the importance of an elite offensive line is overrated?
Maybe Dorsey has already proven you can shuffle and replace good linemen without a dramatic difference in the outcome.
There isn't a perfect way to compare offensive lines from year to year, but an easy sample would be to compare the total sacks and rushing yards.
2015: Allowed 46 sacks, rushed for 2,044 yards, 4.7 YPC
2014: Allowed 49 sacks, rushed for 1,918 yards, 4.6 YPC
2013: Allowed 41 sacks, rushed for 2,056 yards, 4.7 YPC
2012: Allowed 40 sacks, rushed for 2,395 yards, 4.8 YPC
2011: Allowed 34 sacks, rushed for 1,893 yards, 3.9 YPC
So, is the o-line better off, worse off, or the same as it would be had they paid all of the outgoing free agents?