On Monday, the Kansas City Chiefs used the legal tampering period to negotiate a four-year, $80-million deal with former Jacksonville Jaguars’ right tackle Jawaan Taylor; he has agreed, meaning he’ll be anchoring an edge of the Chiefs’ offensive front for the foreseeable future.
The #Chiefs indeed see Jawaan Taylor as most likely their left tackle despite his more than 1,200 snaps at right tackle last year. KC believes in its OL coach, Andy Heck, and that Taylor is athletic enough to seamlessly make the switch. (1/2)— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) March 13, 2023
Immediately, Taylor was looked at as the replacement for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. That would require a change of position.
Taylor has no starts on the left edge in his NFL career and only two starts in college. He has been the starting right tackle in each of his four seasons with the Jaguars but really blossomed in the first year with head coach Doug Pederson in 2022.
He played well enough for Kansas City to sign him to $60 million guaranteed, trusting him to protect the most valuable player in professional sports. He earned that deal as a right tackle — and I believe that’s a very significant point. This financial commitment has been made; this is not the same as Brown auditioning for the long-term left tackle spot in back-to-back contract years.
I believe this offseason is best executed if it ends with a starting lineup that keeps Taylor at right tackle. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad outcome if he ends up at left tackle, but it perhaps shouldn’t be “Plan A.”
Then who will play left tackle?
Ideally, the Chiefs are aggressive on the first night of the NFL Draft. When I say aggressive, I’m talking about whatever it takes to move up to the spot that secures their franchise left tackle. I am very confident that this class can provide that with any of the following prospects:
- Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
- Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
- Broderick Jones, Georgia
- Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
General manager Brett Veach needs to identify his guy(s), and how far he’s willing to go up for which prospect. Once he does that, he should be the aggressive personnel manager that he is and do what it takes to get there. In my eyes, it likely means a worthwhile candidate falls out of the top 15.
According to the Rich Hill Trade Value Model, the Chiefs would need the 31st pick, the 63rd pick — and the higher of their two fourth-round selections to move up to the 17th overall selection. If a worthy prospect falls to 20, Kansas City could get away with sending just the 31st and 63rd picks.
Kansas City would need their guy to fall to 25 to pull off a trade that sends just the 95th pick with the 31st; all of these potential offers can be boosted with future draft capital.
With four quarterbacks, a handful of pass rushers and a solid group of cornerbacks, there’s a decent chance the class of offensive tackles could be pushed down into striking range for the Chiefs. Even if it doesn’t, I believe Veach should treat the left tackle position like the Chiefs treated quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft. The selection could cement an offensive lineup with two staple book ends for an extended period, something they haven’t had since Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz.
Should we trust a rookie to protect Mahomes’ blindside?
While a Day 1 pick would be expected to start right away, they could struggle as they adjust to NFL pass rushers — and that’s okay. That experience is valuable and will pay off down the road as they develop to their ceiling. In the short term, it would be something the Chiefs were already accounting for with Brown at left tackle, in terms of schematic help.
A rookie left tackle would be lining up next to veteran left guard Joe Thuney on every snap — something that helped Brown and would help any player in that spot. If the scheme and Thuney weren’t enough training wheels, Mahomes’ ongoing progression as an elite pocket manager hides a lot of his pass protection’s sins.
That’s a lot of money for a right tackle!
Taylor’s $80 million in total money would have been the second-largest contract for any right tackle in the NFL prior to free agency; the Denver Broncos paid former San Francisco 49ers’ right tackle Mike McGlinchey $87.5 million, pushing Taylor to third on the rankings above guys like the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lane Johnson, Carolina Panthers’ Taylor Moton and Cleveland Browns’ Jack Conklin.
To me, there is little difference between the right and left tackle in terms of importance to an offense’s pass protection. They both face quality edge rushers on pass downs, especially whenever they play an AFC West team next season and beyond. They also offset the significance of the dollar amount by investing in a rookie left tackle, taking advantage of the three guaranteed years he’d be on his first deal.
If Taylor stays at right tackle, they need to make only one projection between their starting offensive tackles in 2023. If they move Taylor to the left and draft a prospect for the right like Tennessee right tackle Darnell Wright or Dawand Jones from Ohio State, they’re making two projections: Taylor has not been a left tackle, and no rookie is a sure thing.
The bottom line
I understand that the ideal plan is not always what happens. The aforementioned left tackles in the draft class could be selected high, and the Chiefs would not have an adequate solution outside of moving Taylor. That would be fine, especially because the second-best option at offensive tackle currently on the roster has been a career right tackle: Lucas Niang.
That said, the Chiefs just gave out the largest deal for an offensive lineman in team history. I don’t think the best-case scenario is immediately moving that player to a position he has no professional experience at. I think this leads to an exciting opening night of the NFL Draft in Kansas City.