This week has been very interesting in regards to Branden Albert. The Chiefs left tackle signed his franchise tender, but there is no guarantee that means he will suit up for the Chiefs next season.
It was on Monday when Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote in his weekly Monday Morning QB piece that Branden Albert could be available in a trade, or at least, the Chiefs would “listen to offers for him.” Later, John Clayton from ESPN, while at the owners meeting on Tuesday, tweeted out that the Dolphins could offer a second round pick to Kansas City to land Albert. After all, they did lose out on free agent Jake Long, who finally decided to join the Rams. Then on Thursday, the USA Today reported the Chiefs weren’t just listening to offers for Albert, the team was “seeking out suitors.” While I think it would take more than a second round pick to acquire Albert from the Chiefs, it certainly seems that the Chiefs are using the media effectively to test the market for Albert’s services, and the Dolphins want it known that they could be a potential suitor.
I know Albert is popular among Chiefs fans, and it was considered a victory when the team slapped the franchise tag on him to avoid losing him to free agency. But that is exactly what could happen next season, when his franchise tag expires and we go through this whole song and dance once more. If the Chiefs don’t think that a long-term deal for the right amount of money is possible with Albert, then they might as well get value out of him – besides a compensatory pick – by trading him to a team that is offering draft picks. And as Nick Jacobs from KC Metro Sports pointed out, Miami has the cap space to pay Albert what he wants, and he would fit their offensive scheme quite nicely.
Dealing in hypothetical’s, of course, let me expand upon the implications of trading Albert and let’s use the target team as Miami. The Chiefs sit currently at an estimated $119.8 million against the cap, which is $123 million this season. Considering the addition of rookie contracts, the Chiefs are likely done in the free agent market. That is, unless, they free up Albert’s franchise tag, which sits at a base salary of $9.828 million. With the extra space, the Chiefs, if they so chose, could address the lack of depth at the inside linebacker position. Heck, if Rolando McClain is ever released by the Raiders after they fail to find a trade partner, the team could even bring in that head case to fill Jovan Belcher’s old role. I know that guy has issues, but so did Aqib Talib, and plenty of Chiefs fans were wanting him brought on before free agency officially began. Plus, his talent can’t be denied, but, like I said, these are all hypothetical situations.
If Albert is indeed traded, that means Luke Joeckel can officially begin looking for houses in Kansas City because there would be little doubt of his selection at #1. With Joeckel replacing Albert on the left side, the Chiefs can use the 2nd round pick the Dolphins spent to get Albert, say the 42nd pick in the draft, on Kyle Long, the offensive tackle prospect from Oregon, as the right tackle of the future. Sure, there are a lot of question marks regarding Long, especially since he only had four starts in 2012 and they all came at guard, but Long also has the athleticism and size (6’6” and 313 lbs) to be a tackle in the NFL. Will he be a project? Absolutely; but he’s got the kind of upside that the second round was meant for.
So, by losing Branden Albert, the Chiefs could also potentially be gaining left and right tackles for the future, both of which would come cheaper than the contract Albert assumedly wants. While I think that Albert is a VERY good left tackle, I also think the Chiefs could be better off with the alternative I outlined above, or a similar one. But I want to know your thoughts Chiefs fans! What do you think?