As the Kansas City Chiefs look forward to the 2021 season, they’ll be driven by the embarrassing showing in Super Bowl LV. General manager Brett Veach admitted that in his press conference on Monday morning. He told reporters the way the game unfolded “left a sour taste in our mouth” — and called it motivation for the offseason.
The sourest taste came from the performance of the offensive line. The patched-up unit caved against an uber-talented defensive front for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Solutions for that problem may be the most significant offseason question — so it was only right Veach was asked about it right off the bat. As he recalled the opt-outs and injuries that led to the ugly Super Bowl showing, he also answered whether or not the Chiefs’ in-house options would be enough for 2021 — or if there are external fixes.
“I certainly think it’ll be a combination of both,” Veach responded. “We do like some of the young players, their progress and their development. Andrew Wylie is showing he can play on a consistent level at that guard position, and [Nick] Allegretti took a step forward. We’re anxious to get [Lucas] Niang back, so we have a nice blend of young players that will continue to get better and will continue to improve — but certainly, our focus will be to bring in some new talent.”
Wylie and Allegretti do deserve credit for becoming consistent presences up front in 2020, but they are two of the only healthy, capable starters for 2021 — and Wylie is actually a restricted free agent when the new year begins in mid-March.
Veach revealed that they’re “hopeful” that tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz would both be back by training camp, but I don’t believe they can rely on that being true. The Chiefs GM is looking at all avenues, but he hinted at the draft being a great way to add talent up front.
“I like the way this draft looks,” Veach said. “The draft looks to be really talented on the offensive line. I think it’ll be a combination of what we have in-house and blending that in with some new talent, potentially in free agency and potentially in the draft, but certainly like the way the draft is shaping up and I think it’s safe to say we’ll be addressing that in any area we can.”
If the Chiefs were to take an offensive lineman in the first 95 selections, it will be the first time in four drafts Veach has headed in Kansas City. In fact, he’s only taken two offensive linemen at all: last year’s third-round pick, Niang, and Allegretti — who was a seventh-round selection in 2019.
As he expresses the importance of building those five positions, he explains that it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to.
“In years past, not having a first-round pick or not having the lineman available graded as high for when you’re picking had something to do with [not drafting offensive linemen],” Veach stated. “You don’t ever go into an offseason or draft and not have in your mind that one of your priorities is to continually invest in the offensive line... I would say a lot of it had to do with where picks fell in each round, what was available to us in free agency... in general, your focus is to always build up front and I’m sure we’ll do that this offseason.”
They’ll have to do it in some fashion this spring and summer. There are only four offensive linemen signed for 2021 with more than six games of NFL experience; two of them are recovering from injuries while a third opted out of playing in 2020.
The number of resources spent on the group in the next few months will reveal how Veach and the organization feel about their in-house options, the recovery of Fisher and Schwartz, and the importance of having better-than-average talent protecting their franchise quarterback.