The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t waste any time addressing the most glaring issue on the team heading into the 2021 offseason. Former New England Patriots offensive lineman Joe Thuney agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract with the Chiefs on Monday.
New #Chiefs guard Joe Thuney’s five-year, $80 million contract includes $32.5M fully guaranteed at signing over the first two years, plus an injury guarantee that converts to full in 2022, per source. That brings the practical guarantee at signing to a whipping $48 million.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 15, 2021
Thuney has started all 16 games in every regular season of his five-year career. He’s primarily played left guard but did take snaps at center in 2020 and has a handful of snaps at offensive tackle over his career.
As we digest the first big signing of the Chiefs’ offseason, I went through five things to like about the newest member of Kansas City’s offensive line:
1. The Chiefs are serious about protecting Patrick Mahomes
It was hard to watch Mahomes run for his life in Super Bowl LV behind the makeshift offensive line. It was obvious: whether it’s a big-time receiver or a defensive addition, nothing would have helped the team overcome that pass protection to win. After releasing Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, the offensive line talent was as depleted as it has been in the Andy Reid era.
Instead of putting a lot of inexperience in front of Mahomes, the Chiefs secured a 2019 All-Pro guard that is considered among the elite offensive linemen in the NFL. They guaranteed the first two years of this contract, indicating that there was likely a bidding war for Thuney’s rights. General manager Brett Veach did what he had to do to secure the best interior offensive linemen in this year’s free agency.
2. Position flexibility
Thuney has played 98% of his career snaps at left guard — but that doesn’t mean he is cemented there. This past season, he had to start two games at center. In prior years, he mixed in at offensive tackle for a handful of snaps. At North Carolina State, Thuney played tackle his last season — and earned the highest-pass blocking grade by PFF’s grading in 2015.
Most likely, Thuney will be slotted into the position he’s played the most in his All-Pro NFL career. However, the Chiefs need help at tackle — and Thuney has the size to make it work on the perimeter. Don’t be too shocked if the Kansas City tries him out there — or also at center.
3. Thuney’s age
Thuney is currently 28 years old and will turn 29 in the middle of the 2021 season. The rest of the free-agent class for starting-capable offensive linemen was made up of players well into their 30s. It’s harder to feel good about a five-year deal like Thuney’s if the player is nearly 40 at the end of that deal.
Plus, offensive linemen can play at an elite level well into their 30s — as long as they stay healthy.
4. The veteran guard to aide a young offensive tackle
The Chiefs have a lot of young, developmental projects at offensive tackle, and it’s a safe bet to assume they’ll be adding one in the NFL dDaft. If Thuney does stay at left guard, he’d be a great partner on the left side for a young left tackle — or vice versa on the other side.
For communication purposes and trust, it’d be beneficial for the Chiefs’ next left tackle to have a great player like Thuney to team up with snap-to-snap.
5. Signing Thuney away from the Patriots (or other AFC contenders)
Thuney had been a staple of the New England offensive line for five seasons and two Super Bowl championships. They’ve been a major player in free agency so far this offseason as they move further into the post-Tom Brady era, but losing their best offensive lineman doesn’t help them return to contention.
Besides the Patriots, any offensive line would have gotten a lot better by signing Thuney. He was the best offensive lineman on the free agency board, and he’ll be protecting Mahomes next season and beyond instead of protecting another contender’s young signal-caller.