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4 of the Chiefs’ free-agent options at offensive tackle

What are the Chiefs going to do at offensive tackle?

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When NFL free agency opens at 3 p.m. (Arrowhead Time) on Wednesday, the Kansas City Chiefs can sign free agents. The Chiefs will have $17.8 million in cap space when the new league year begins.

Lucas Niang is the only offensive tackle who is currently on the Chiefs roster, and he has missed 31 games since he was drafted in 2020. There is a possibility that Kansas City will give second-year player Darian Kinard a shot at one of the tackle positions, but right now, it seems the Chiefs may view him more as a guard than a tackle.

A lot of attention has been paid to the Orlando Brown Jr. situation.

Ultimately, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach declined to franchise tag Brown for a second straight year and pay him approximately $20 million to play in 2023. This doesn't mean the Chiefs and Brown won't be able to agree on a contract during free agency that will bring him back into the fold, but as things stand right now, it appears that both sides are moving on. In addition to losing Brown, Kansas City's starting right tackle, Andrew Wylie, is also a free agent, and backup tackle Prince Tega Wanogho is an exclusive rights free agent, which means the Chiefs can bring him back at the league minimum if they want to.

To be frank, this year's free agent class doesn't have a lot of talent at offensive tackle, especially at left tackle. Finding an upgrade over Brown via free agency is going to be difficult. But here are four options the Chiefs could kick the tires on:

1. Donovan Smith

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The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle was tasked with keeping Tom Brady upright during his stint in Florida, is coming off the worst season of his career. He battled injuries through a large chunk of last season — first, an elbow injury in September that caused him to miss two games, then he missed Weeks 15 and 17 with an injured foot.

In 633 pass-blocking snaps, Smith allowed six sacks and 31 quarterback pressures; he was also penalized 12 times in 2022. The picture gets worse when you look at his run-blocking — Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave Smith an anemic run-blocking grade of just 41.5. Now, here is the good news, as recently as 2021, Smith was playing at a Pro Bowl level — he allowed just one sack that year and had a pass-blocking grade of 84.7. So if you believe injuries were the cause of his slide last season, then he could be a solid solution to replace Brown.

Here's the rub — Spotrac has his market value currently listed at $19.5 million per year. If the goal of not applying the tag to Brown were to save money, then signing Smith wouldn't make much sense.

2. Jawaan Taylor

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Strictly a right tackle, Taylor is the youngest free-agent tackle in this class. He is still just 25 years old. Standing 6'5” with 35 1/8-inch arms with 10-inch hands, Taylor has the requisite size and length that the Chiefs look for in a tackle. Taylor's biggest problem has been keeping his weight in check. There was a rumor that before the University of Florida would offer him a scholarship in high school, he had to lose 33 pounds and trim his weight down from 380 to a mere 347 lbs.

Playing over 1,000 snaps last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars, 675 of which were in pass protection, Taylor only allowed 16 pressures. The biggest hole in Taylor's game is by far his run-blocking— PFF gave Taylor the worst run-blocking grade out of all qualifying offensive tackles with a grade of 39.7. when you figure this into the fact that Spotrac still has his market value at $14 million per year, it seems unlikely that the Chiefs will invest that amount of money in him unless they see something glaring on tape that they think they can fix.

3. Andre Dillard

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The former Philadelphia Eagles' first-round draft pick has struggled to break through and get on the field. Dillard is not an overly long player. His arms are only 33 1/2 inches, below the 34-inch threshold Andy Reid usually likes in his tackles. Still only 27 years old, Dillard has looked good in the limited snaps he has played — he's only allowed one sack in 266 pass reps over the last two seasons.

Due to his limited role in the offense, Dillard's estimated value is expected to be around 4.6 million per year, which is a value that might be more palatable to the Chiefs' front office if they can get over his length issues.

4. Andrew Wylie

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If I had to put money on who the Chiefs' opening-day starter at right tackle is next year, I'm picking Andrew Wylie. Despite playing inconsistently at times throughout the season, and allowing nine sacks and 49 quarterback pressures on 743 passing plays, there is a sense of familiarity to his game and the way he gels with Mahomes and the interior line.

Given the state of free agency this year, I'm not sure how much better you will get for under $10 million a year — don't be surprised if they bring Wylie back on another one-year deal for around $5 million. It's not a flashy move, but it's like they say, better the devil you know than the one you don't.

The bottom line

I believe that Veach does have a plan for offensive tackle this offseason — keep an eye on roster cuts as we get closer to the league's new year. Things can change in a matter of moments if the right guy hits the market.

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