Chiefs Stars Are A-Lining

The future? It’s here. It’s now.

There’s no indication that the Kansas City Chiefs new handlers are building to succeed for the future, instead, they expect to win pronto. Every step John Dorsey and Andy Reid have taken from the time of their hire, has been aimed towards the idea of winning and winning now.

They are already winning the off season.

While the team started out this off season with many questions on many sides of the ball, the main questions now appear to only be related to the Chiefs offensive line. Sure, a middle linebacker is a must and depth is needed at other positions but, the focus clearly appears to have narrowed down to the offensive line.

Even on the offensive line front: the stars are aligning.

The Chiefs have taken care of… their Pro Bowl punter… their top 5 WR… and shored up their defensive secondary. As far as the first pick in the draft goes, there’s been a debate about who needs the help more, the defensive or offensive line but, the choice which appears to be emerging is, an offensive tackle.

Since the 3-4 defense is staying, and the 4-3 is only going to be utilized occasionally, the current personnel on defense won’t need as much tweaking. Andy Reid offenses are typically endowed with huge offensive linemen and so this helps narrow the focus of concern on the parts of Reid and Dorsey.

Fans should probably view the change needed along the offensive line that’s taking place by going from Romeo Crennel to Andy Reid, just as significant a change as the defensive line underwent by changing from the 4-3 to the 3-4, four seasons ago.

However, only one part of that transition has taken place so far: Eric Winston out and Geoff Schwartz in.

New OL acquisition Geoff Schwartz (6-6, 340) fits right into the power OL mold and should be considered the only lineman who we know for sure is exactly what Reid wants. Sam Monsoon of says Schwartz could be a future Pro Bowler,

“Each year some of the best moves of free agency occur at the bargain end of the spectrum. I thought Schwartz moving to the Vikings last year had the potential to be one of those, but an injury derailed his chance to start at right guard, and he had to make do with being rotated in during the season for the underperforming Brandon Fusco. Despite clearly outplaying the starter the Vikings never made the switch and Schwartz moved on in free agency to Kansas City.

This might sound familiar, in that it is a story remarkably similar to that of Evan Mathis, an underrated player who split time but couldn’t buy the starting gig until he moved to a new team. The Chiefs have signed a player with legitimate Pro-Bowl potential if he can get a fair chance to earn the job on merit, and they have done so for peanuts.”

Considering that coach Reid is proclaiming LT Branden Albert a Pro Bowl talent while simultaneously dangling him as trade bait, you get the idea that if Albert were exactly the kind of offensive lineman he wanted, he’d never be shopped or shipped.

Although, Albert’s fate may have more to do with his value being tied to a large one-year franchise tag contract. If he was truly a proto-type-Andy-dandy-OL-monster, Reid would be making public address announcements about keeping Albert.

Instead, Reid is hyping Albert’s value for one purpose and one purpose only: to trade him. Coaches usually stay away from hyping the value of a player, especially in that player’s contract year because a player can always come back at negotiation time and use the coaches own words to leverage what he expects to sign for. This is the main reason you should see Reid’s public praise of Albert’s talents… as a sign that he wants to trade him… and for that purpose only.

While Albert has stated that he’s publicly been unwilling to move to another position, trading Albert gives Reid the flexibility he wants without making his players unhappy. Reid appears true to his word when he says he wants to put the 5 best OL on the field. While on one hand it’s refreshing for fans to hear players like Albert speaking out… like most other GMs and coaches, Dorsey & Reid don’t want players dictating to them what they can or can’t do with a player in terms of where they want to play that player on the field.

What does this say about the other offensive linemen on the Chiefs roster? Probably that no one is safe, except for Mr. Geoff May The Schwartz Be With You.

Some have questioned how the Chiefs can give up possibly two second rounders for a QB and then place him behind a line made up of mostly unproven talent… and expect to win? You can count on Dorsey and Reid to have a strategy in play but, that strategy won’t have the offensive line looking anything like last year’s line.

Like many other K.C. fans, I’m amazed at the all-inclusive, real and meaningful, reconstruction that’s taken place since January. So many position groups have been approached, and then altered, in fundamentally different ways: adding two DBs to make that group solid and deep, adding two WRs (Bowe & Avery) to make that position group disparate and tenable, and adding two QBs to make the once weakest link, a strong and stable position.

So, when Andy Reid and John Dorsey say they have a plan… now… I believe them. However, when it comes to the offensive line, it may be the one spot where their final design is less evident than at any other position group on the team.

If you’re paying attention though, you have to believe they have a set of contingency plans for the offensive line too. And, if all of their other moves so far, are any indication of what they have in store for building a collection of big and powerful offensive linemen, then it should look dramatically different by late July when training camp commences.

In fact, by then, the offensive line could be considered… the “stars” of camp.

Consider the following scenarios.

If Branden Albert is traded, the Chiefs will end up with a 2nd round pick this year (and maybe more) as a result. No, a second round pick may not net a “star” offensive lineman but, the freed up cap space should allow the Chiefs to bring someone in who fits the Reid mold and helps make financial room for other players. Plus, that 2nd rounder could help the Chiefs nab a very good ILB.

6′-8″, 320lb, ex-New England Patriot OT, and free agent, Sebastian Vollmer has been mentioned in blog circles as a possible signing.  However, the Chiefs can’t really afford Vollmer right now unless they move Albert first.

If the Chiefs did, A) trade Albert, B) sign Vollmer and C) draft an OT high in the draft… Andy Reid would have three-fifths of the stars in place that would be personally hand picked for his scheme: Vollmer, LT draft pick and Schwartz.

Is this scenario even possible? Sure. Could it be part of the off season OL blueprint that Dorsey and Reid have set forth privately? No one knows for certain but, considering all they have been working towards so far, it’s seems like a good possibility.

How does Geno Smith factor into any of this?

Whether you believe Geno Smith is worthy of the number one pick in the draft  or not, he is the top QB prospect that multiple teams not only want but, need. So, the Geno Smith scenarios left for the Chiefs are;

A) bypass him and pick the OT of their choice or,

B) pick Geno Smith with the idea of trading him — likely a draft day trade or,

C) bypass him by trading down, gaining extra picks, and draft a top notch OT or,

D) draft, keep and develop Geno Smith.

Given the goals that Dorsey and Reid have set to make this team better, I have to admit that (option D) drafting, keeping and developing Geno Smith, appears to be the least likely avenue for improving the team in the short run. I say, “the short run” because I believe Geno Smith will one day be an excellent NFL QB, and if he’s not in a Chiefs uniform when that happens, no one will ever forget how passionate a high percentage of Chiefs fans were about having the Chiefs selecting him at #1 in the draft.

I’m not sure that Donald Stephenson or Jeff Allen or Rodney Hudson should feel safe or like they will be counted into the future plans (beyond this season) any more than Ricky Stanzi should be counted into the Chiefs future plans. We know very little about how they (Stephenson, Allen and Hudson) will develop and we can’t except Dorsey or Reid to know much more than that either.

If  Reid and Dorsey (R&D) can pull off the “Albert Trade + a 1st Round Trade Down” Doppelganger… I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Sebastian Vollmer and a top Guard like Chance Warmack or Tackle D.J. Fluker (who many think could be moved to Guard) in red and gold by the end of spring. However, that would require the Chiefs trading their first pick and reaping two high picks in this year’s draft.

Possible trade partners include: St. Louis and Minnesota have two first round picks each but, neither seems like a likely trade partner. Jacksonville has picks #2 and #33. Philly has #4 and #35. Arizona has #7 and #38. Desperate Buffalo sits at #8 and #41. The equally desperate N.Y. Jets sit at #9 and #39. Don’t forget the San Francisco 49ers have 200 picks in this draft and could move up to take any player they want.

If the Chiefs can make a first round trade happen, we could see 4 new stars lining up on the offensive line for the Chiefs next year.

While I have always thought Rodney Hudson had some of the quickest feet I’ve ever seen for an OL at the combine, he appears to be too small for Reid’s system. Some have suggested Jon Asamoah could move over to Center and his size may be just what Dr. Reid prescribes.

Then, we could see a possible K.C. Chiefs offensive line looking a little like this:

I’m not saying this is how it will all play out. However, it’s now clear that Andy Reid and John Dorsey are masterminding something entirely different for the offensive line and it doesn’t appear to have much to do with the players that were on the roster at the end of the 2012 season. Need proof? Just go ask Mr. Eric Smoked Winston and Sir Branden Prince Albert, who were previously thought to be the Chiefs two best offensive linemen but, who both have apparently taken their last hit from an Arrowhead peace pipe.

Of course, it could be Schwartz at RT and Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher at LT. After all Schwartz is listed at as a Tackle and these two tackle prospects are listed by most publications as the top values in this draft. In any event, the make-up of the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs offensive line will be markedly different — and it sounds like — better.

If things work out for the R&D railroaders… the stars may be aligning across the Chiefs offensive front this next season. And what has already been a memorable off season, just gets interesting-er and interesting-er.

What do you think Addicts? Is there anyone you’d like to see protecting Alex Smith or blowing holes wide open for Jamaal Charles next season?

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