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How the Chiefs should address their offensive tackles this season

Kansas City goes into the offseason with both of its tackles as pending free agents.

NFL: Super Bowl LVII-Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of an exhilarating 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII, the Kansas City Chiefs enter the offseason as league champions.

But general manager Brett Veach will face a number tough personnel decisions. Among them is what to do about the team’s offensive tackles Andrew Wylie and Orlando Brown Jr. — both of whom will become free agents when the new league year begins on March 15.

Let’s examine the team’s options at this critical position.

Right tackle Andrew Wylie

In the Super Bowl, Wylie played the game of his life, capping a career year in which he started every game — and made tremendous strides. He did so under a one-year Veteran Salary Benefit (VSB) contract that paid him $2.5 million, but cost the Chiefs less than $1.2 million against the salary cap. This made him one of the league’s best values.

Before the season, bringing the versatile offensive lineman back on an inexpensive deal would have been a no-brainer. That, however, may no longer be possible. According to Spotrac, the five-year veteran — now 28 years old — should be worth aroound $4.7 million per year.

While this would be an incredible payday for the former undrafted free agent, it likely would not be in the team’s best interest. Wylie is well-liked in the locker room and has earned the trust of the coaching staff — but if we’re being honest, the team does not need him.

Given his ascending play, experience in big games and veteran leadership, it is likely that another team could pay him more than Kansas City can. He will probably play for another team in 2023.

Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.

Meanwhile, Brown once again enters the offseason in the spotlight. A year ago, it was reported that he wanted to be football’s highest-paid left tackle, which would have meant a contract north of $23 million per year. The Chiefs countered with a solid, long-term deal that Brown declined. Ultimately, he played on a franchise-tag contract worth $16.7 million.

In 2022, Brown sometimes played like one of the league’s best tackles. But at other times, he cost his team after being beaten. While Brown’s bad play has largely been outweighed by his good play, there’s been enough of the bad that any team might be reluctant to pay him like he’s a top NFL tackles.

Kansas City will probably try to make a long-term deal that pays Brown something close to what he wants, but give the team a lower 2023 cap hit. It’s likely, however, that this negotiation will also fail. We should expect that the Chiefs will once again place a non-exclusive franchise tag on Brown, which will pay him $20 million (120% of last season’s salary, per CBA rules) this season. He’ll again be free to negotiate with other teams — but that’s unlikely to happen.

This won’t be an easy decision for Kansas City. Brown has proven to be a good player — he’s been a Pro Bowl selection in four straight seasons — and is a high-character teammate who is reliable in big games.

Lucas Niang

The Chiefs will have other options who are already in the locker room — including second-year player Darian Kinnard and third-year man Prince Tega Wanogho. But the most intriguing may be 2020’s third-round pick Lucas Niang.

The team trusted him as a rookie in 2021 (he opted out of the COVID-19 season in 2020), starting him in nine games. In a 2022 season plagued with injuries, Niang appeared in seven games — all of them as a reserve.

Free agency

Considering that Brown is one of free agency’s headliners, it’s unlikely Kansas City will consider many veteran players — but one player to watch is the Atlanta FalconsKaleb McGary.

A former first-round pick, McGary has been a late bloomer in Atlanta. While his pass protection needs work, he is a solid run blocker with the athletic ability and physicality required to play in the Chiefs’ offense.

While his contract will not be inexpensive, it would be cheaper than a long-term deal for Brown. Kansas City might consider improving one tackle position — improving the line as a whole — while drafting a player who could eventually replace Brown.

The draft

Almost no matter what the Chiefs do about their tackles, we should expect them to take one within the draft’s first 100 picks, in which the team now holds picks 31, 63 and 95. They have few cost-effective long-term options, so they need to build depth around the position. Players they could consider include Jaelyn Duncan, Darnell Wright and Cody Mauch.

Duncan has shown tremendous footwork and a strong core in pass protection. He does well against speed rushers — and if he oversets, he can quickly redirect inside. He has, however, struggled against power players and must improve his anchor strength.

Wright is the most well-rounded of these three. He combines power with the technical refinement that is needed in pass protection. While he may need to add functional strength to his game, he has plenty of tape showing high-level play against top-notch competition.

Mauch is one of the class’s most intriguing prospects. While he will need to continue to refine his fundamentals and add size, he possesses rare athletic ability — along with a mean streak that teams will want.

The bottom line

Veach again faces a difficult job. Finding starting-caliber NFL tackles is hard — especially when they must protect two-time MVP Mahomes.

Replacing Wylie with a rookie (or a similar veteran) seems like a feasible option. But moving on from Brown without a solid replacement plan feels like a serious gamble the team should not take. So that will likely lead to another franchise tag on the left tackle — which at least ensures stability at a critical position as the team builds depth.

Still, if Kansas City has proven one thing over the last year, it’s that the team doesn’t need anyone. Veach has proven he is not afraid to be bold; he will not overpay for any position. But it would be nice to know that in years to come, the franchise will be well-protected.

For Veach, it will be another interesting offseason.

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