As the excitement over the Chiefs’ latest free agency acquisition tempers a bit, I thought it was a good time to review some concerns I voiced on Twitter shortly after the news broke.
Let me start by saying that I think the Jared Gaither signing was a brilliant personnel move by GM Scott Pioli. There is high upside here and little risk. Still, moments after the signing I saw some fans declaring that the Chiefs had acquired a new starting LT. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Gaither has a long road to travel. Let’s take a look at what he has to prove in Kansas City.
1. He has to prove he is healthy
Gaither missed last season because of a back injury. Back injuries can be utterly disastrous for lineman. He needs to prove to the Chiefs that he doesn’t have any lingering issues.
2. He has to make the team
Gaither hasn’t played football in a year. He has to shake off the rust enough in the next couple of weeks to prove he even belongs on an NFL roster. That will be no small task. He has a ton of talent and some starting experience so he has a leg up on some of the bottom of the roster guys fighting to make the team. Still, we won’t know anything about Gaither until he straps on a helmet and hits the field. We likely won’t see that until the second week of the preseason the earliest.
3. He has to be better than Barry Richardson
Gaither might be good enough to make the team but is he good enough to start? He has been away for a while and it might take him some time to get back in the swing of things. Forget about LT, Gaither has to start with knocking incumbent RT Barry Richardson down a peg on the depth chart. (Although I hear in Kansas City depth charts don’t mean anything)
If Gaither shows some flashes of his old stuff then I think it would be wise for the Chiefs to give him a shot starting at RT and see how he holds up there for a season.
4. He has to prove he can be consistent
There was some question as to Gaither’s effort while in Baltimore. There were some accusations that he did not care enough about football and that he would sometimes take plays off. The Chiefs hate players who take plays off and they are always talking about how they want players who put football at the top of their priority list. IT would be foolish for the Chiefs to trot a guy like that out to play guard Matt Cassel’s blindside.
Unless there is some sort of injury disaster or Branden Albert starts the season playing terribly, Gaither should spend a season earning the trust of the coaching staff. Albert isn’t great but he isn’t terrible either. He is also still young. There is no reason to force him to switch positions right now.
Gaither is an excellent pickup. He is only 25 and if he returns to form, it is possible that he could develop into a pro bowl left or right tackle.
But he has to earn it.