News that Laurent Duvernay-Tardif would be opting out of the 2020 NFL season to do his part in helping serve his community and the fight against COVID-19 dropped late Friday night. While we all applaud Duvernay-Tardif’s decision, it does leave the Chiefs in a peculiar spot, as they try to replace a set-in-stone starter along the offensive line very late in the offseason.
The details aren’t certain yet, but it sounds like this move only saves the Chiefs $2.5 million in cap space for 2020. Duvernay-Tardif will be due a $150,000 stipend, and it’s estimated that his 750k roster bonus already kicked in. There is $2 million that is prorated into 2021 that is guaranteed while his base salary of $2.5 million is what the team saves.
The early thoughts are Duvernay-Tardif will count for $2.9 million against the cap in 2020 and $4.6 million against the cap in 2021. For the Chiefs, that isn’t a great series of events, as they now lose a starter and don’t really gain the cap space to bring in a replacement. They also lose the ability to get out of the 2021 year at a more reasonable price.
The 2021 hurdle is for a different day, as the team’s most current pressing problem is how to replace him on the field in 2020.
Replacing Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
The tried-and-true method
Andrew Wylie played right guard in place of Duvernay-Tardif in 2018 and had some moments of quality play. There is even an argument to be made that Wylie at right guard was as good if not better than an injured Duvernay-Tardif when he was on the field in the same position.
Good initial punch by Wylie that slows the DT and Wylie starts moving his feet to stay balanced. Outside hand isn't in a great spot and gets knocked off but Wylie has a wide, low base which allows him to bend and recover up and under the DT who's he's forced upright. + recovery pic.twitter.com/E0tdevSGKc— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) August 27, 2018
Wylie has the experience playing next to both Mitchell Schwartz and Austin Reiter and performed his best at that position. If I had to make an early guess at the most likely replacement, I’d have to lean toward Wylie. In terms of a one-to-one replacement, Wylie makes the most sense for not only the experience but also being able to match the athleticism that the Chiefs lose with Duvernay-Tardif.
The downside with Wylie replacing Duvernay-Tardif at right guard is that he simply took a step backward in 2019. Moving across the line of scrimmage to a new position likely didn’t help. His inconsistent technique was a liability. Too often, Wylie’s feet would just come to a stop, and he’d be left reaching for a defender. It resulted in more than a few quick pressures up the middle.
The young blood
Nick Allegretti got some camp and preseason work at both center and guard but seemed to be trending toward the latter as the season went on. He may not possess the same athletic profile that Duvernay-Tardif or Wylie has — not many do — but he flashes short-area quickness that is required in the Chiefs system.
Quick pull/reach by Allegretti then showing off the rotational power again— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) May 1, 2019
- Would like a slightly shallower bucket stet to loop but still quick
- Flips hips around the defender efficiently
- Engages defender early to set base
- Inside hand=chest, outside hand=shoulder
- Finish pic.twitter.com/M7nTfUqsT2
There isn’t a big sample size to judge Allegretti off of, but he flashes some traits. He’s an intelligent interior offensive lineman that has shown the ability to play multiple positions and learn quickly. He’s a bit more of a power player than the Chiefs have preferred on the interior under Andy Reid, weight loss during his pro day circuit reportedly helped in that regard. The Chiefs may also be in the midst of a philosophy change on the interior based on some of their recent moves and interests.
As hinted above, Allegretti simply doesn’t have a ton of experience against NFL competition and isn’t coming from a high-profile college background, either. The jump from playing well (but not spectacularly) in college to starting in the NFL is still a huge one. Add the fact that there is a significant step in athleticism and range necessary for screens, pulls and outside run plays, Allegretti filling in would come with a slight change in usage out of the position.
The veteran experience
Mike Remmers was brought in this offseason and the question now has to be answered: is he a swing tackle or a utility interior offensive lineman?
Remmers hands are good when he's balanced. Varied punches, uses both hands equally, good low->high strike, feints, etc..— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) March 24, 2020
- Patient set, stays balanced
- Lands first stab w/ outside hand
- Gets hand back/not slapped of bal
- Inside hand under long-arm and forklift up pic.twitter.com/ooyH15Uf38
Remmers looks much better on the film along the interior than he does on the outside, but he’s routinely been given chances at offensive tackle. The Chiefs hope Remmers operates as a Stefen Wisniewski-type of veteran player who can just step into a starting lineup and perform well as soon as he’s asked. Falling back on his experience in multiple systems — including a very heavy outside-zone system with the Minnesota Vikings — he might compete for a starting job in Kansas City.
The ultimate downside to Remmers starting along the interior is a lack of upside. He’s been in the NFL for eight seasons and the Chiefs are his ninth team. For a single-year filler, he could play well enough if the play around him is strong. My concern would be getting on the same page as Schwartz and Reiter so that his limitations aren’t highlighted frequently.
For those that have read or listened to my thoughts on this before, you know I’m against this, but Lucas Niang has to be considered in this situation. If the goal is really the “best five” starting along the offensive line, it may prove difficult to keep Niang off the field.
Lucas Niang showcasing his lateral explosion and fluidity on the reach block.— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) April 26, 2020
- Quick bucket step to angle shoulders
- Skip step while working hips around the penetrating DE
- Outside hand helps drive the defender down pic.twitter.com/jLpchkXvcW
Similar to Wylie, Niang would have the athleticism to match most of what Duvernay-Tardif was asked to do, as long as he’s recovered from his hip injury. Niang would still have to learn the position, but the blend of raw strength and explosive traits easily set him up as the highest upside option at the position. His skillset would align well at guard, and he likely could make the transition relatively quickly.
The concern I have with moving him inside would be stalling out his growth at the more important (left) tackle position. Learning an entirely new position year one in the NFL then being asked to learn another new position in a year or two is a recipe for stunted growth.
Especially considering the 2021 cap situation — now with the added LDT contract — there may be a need for a tackle;e earlier rather than later for the Chiefs and risking Niang’s growth there is a dangerous path.
With the lack of cap savings from the Mike opt-out, this option is the least likely, but there is always a chance with Brett Veach.
The biggest name out there is Larry Warford — formally of the New Orleans Saints. He’s an outstanding guard that would be the clear-cut starter if he were brought in and comes from a system that shares some similarities to the Chiefs. The top concern would be price, as he was seeking around $7 million a year, and the Chiefs are currently sitting under $5 million. With the savings from Duvernay-Tardif, they technically can afford that asking price, but the Chiefs usually like to have between five and $10 million going into the year for an emergency fund. The other concern is that Warford’s style of play could clash a little with what Reid linemen are known for. He’s not the most fleet of foot, space-blocking player. If the Chiefs are willing to transition to a more stout interior blocking team (and there have been some signs) to help Patrick Mahomes, then the move makes a lot of sense.
Another (more cost-savvy) option is Justin Britt. He’s played all along the Seattle Seahawks offensive line but is coming off a season-ending knee injury. His best years were at center, but he’s shown the ability to play guard and could come in and compete in a similar manner to Remmers but has better performances in his background.
The bottom line
There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut frontrunner or player most likely to earn this starting right guard gig for the Chiefs. It seems most likely the answer already lies in-house, but there are options. Wylie’s experience at the position and his athleticism give him the small edge going into camp, but it wouldn’t shock me to see any one of these guys overtake him.
It would also be unfair to go this in-depth on right guard possibilities and not mention that every single one of these players is likely in a battle for the left guard spot as well. The optimistic side of me wants to slate Martinas Rankin there, but even if he’s fully healthy, it’s also an open competition.
Who will be the Chiefs’ starting right guard in 2020?
This poll is closed