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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Trading Albert Makes The Chiefs Richer, Younger, More Flexible

I spent the first couple of months of the offseason screaming for LT Branden Albert to be re-signed and bashing the idea of using the team’s first overall pick to replace him. But, now that free agency has run its course for this team, I can see how trading a now-franchise-tagged Albert increases the team’s purse, longevity and flexibility going into the Draft.

Here’s how:

It saves money.

While the new rookie wage scale makes it cheaper and easier to sign top picks, the salaries are also determined by a formula so complicated that I won’t bore you with here. But, basically the contract for the 1st overall pick this year will be something like 4-years for $21 million in guaranteed money or an average of a bit over $5 million a year. If the Chiefs want to keep the player (Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher in this scenario), then they can invoke what is essentially the “rookie tag” which works like a franchise tag except that it is the average of the top 10 salaries at the position rather than the top 5.

Albert’s franchise tag salary this year will make him $9.828 million in guaranteed money – that’s nearly 10 percent of the Chiefs total player payroll. It’s also reported that he wants something in that neighborhood as a yearly salary as a part of a long-term deal.

In other words, Joeckel will cost roughly half of what Albert will next season, and we get him for that cheap price for four full years. With Albert, there’s no guarantee that the Chiefs will be able to come to a long-term agreement, and even if they do, it’s going to be pricey.

In the end, it all depends on how Dorsey and Reid feel about Joeckel and Fisher. If they think that either of those two prospects have brighter futures than Albert – and they may even think that one or both of them are better than Albert right now – then why pay Albert double what you can get these guys for?

It makes the team younger.

I know that saying this may give fans PTSD flashbacks to the Herm Edwards “youth movement” experiment, but a lot of talent that is still driving this team came out of that 2008 draft class.

The Chiefs have had a great run of free agency, methodically filling nearly every hole on the roster with solid starters. Moves like the trade for QB Alex Smith show that the new regime believes it can win now with this improved squad. But, we can’t turn our back on the future in order to try and win this season. Giving up what could be two 2nd-rounders is a heavy price to pay for our quarterback of today.

Last year, all the free agency chatter was about Mario Williams and Matt Flynn – the most sought after defensive and offensive free agents respectively. Did they lead their teams on a quick run to the promised land? The Bills went 6-10 and the Seahawks ended up starting a 3rd-round pick over their free agency prize.

This is a story we’ve seen time and time again. The team that wins free agency frequently wins very little thereafter. We’ve made some smart additions, now we need to draft smart, and for that we need ammunition.

According to reports, the Chiefs are looking for a 2013 2nd-rounder and a 2014 pick as well. We just signed a truckload of veterans. If we can translate Albert and his $10-million price tag into two young starters, then we can help balance out this team with youthful bodies for the future.

It gives us flexibility in the draft.

Mike Mayock has been saying for a month now that in this draft, you’re just as well off picking 25th as if you are picking 5th. This draft is also deep in areas of overall need for the Chiefs. We can easily pick up rotational D-linemen, a right tackle or a good ILB in the 2nd round. The problem is that we (technically) don’t have a pick there. Although our 3rd round pick would really be a 2nd most years because two picks ahead of it were eliminated, picking up a real 2nd-rounder will give us the ability to move around and target the guys we want. With a second and that high third we could likely even move back into the 1st round if we saw a great talent falling.

In some ways, the 2nd round is a better place to be picking than 1st overall. It will be very difficult to trade out of the top spot and get decent compensation and there are only a few players worthy of that top pick. In the second round, not only will there be good players dropping and available, but the trade market is always much more lively there to both move up and down.

 

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Again, all of this depends on what Dorsey and Reid think of Albert and Joeckel. If they don’t think he’s worthy of the money he is demanding, then we are just renting him this year and will see him depart in 2014 for nothing. Right now, we can potentially get good value in a trade and make his contract someone else’s problem. With another $9.8 million to spend, we can pick up another free agent or two now that feeding frenzy is over and there are bargains to be had.

Meanwhile, the team overall gets younger and more stable. “Draft and develop” is what makes good teams into dynasties, and I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see this new staff turn in more than one exciting and short playoff run like the last four before them.

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Tags: 2013 NFL Draft Branden Albert Draft Eric Fisher Luke Joeckel

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