We are smack in the middle of the offseason dead zone and I know we’re all going to be writing a lot of sentences like: “the complex LT Branden Albert situation” or “the team’s dealings with Albert have yet to play out” etc., etc.
Sam Mellinger summed it up pretty well:
This is an inherently combustible situation — a good player who wants to be paid like a great one, working on a one-year contract on the other side of the line from a younger and better player who was just the first overall draft pick. If Albert was uneasy before, now he will be playing with his obvious replacement. If nothing changes, a season like this will be one filled with land mines.
I’m going to make this much easier.
Albert, take $6 million a year or we’re letting you walk.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Albert is a good player and I’m also not as offended as most fans by his “attitude” – i.e. negotiating hard by sitting out of one voluntary camp. I also think that we may have the best set of bookend tackles in the league this year.
Even so, unless the Chiefs have far and away the world’s best offensive line in 2013 and it’s clear that it will be seriously harmed if Albert is not a part of it in 2014, it is simply not worth it to overpay for him.
Let’s be clear about what Albert is for us long-term – a right tackle. It’s a luxury that we have both Albert, an experienced above average left tackle, and 1st-round pick Eric Fisher, a versatile, team-first guy that is willing to play right tackle this year. But, beyond this season, we really need to put guys in the positions where they can fully realize their potential. Fisher is a left tackle; that’s what he excelled at in college, that’s what we drafted him to be.
So far, Albert has shown no particular interest in being a right tackle, and I imagine that if push came to shove he would prefer to make left tackle money somewhere else than play for the Chiefs. Left tackles get paid significantly more in this league and that’s the position he wants to play. I don’t blame him for wanting out after this season.
Another variable in all of this is that we’re not entirely sure Albert would play right tackle well once Fisher takes over on the left side. Still, if we want to keep him, we have to offer him a right tackle contract – a generous one, granted – and call it good.
In the thick of the haggling between the Chiefs and the Dolphins over possibly trading Albert came a report that Miami was willing to offer Albert the contract he wanted as a part of the deal – a six-year, $53.4 million extension similar to what Texans LT Duane Brown got. That averages to $8.9 million a year, just a bit less than the franchise tag number and would make him the fourth-highest paid player on the team after OLB Tamba Hali, WR Dwayne Bowe and DE Tyson Jackson (if he comes back with that salary in 2014, a questionable prospect).
Simply put, a smart organization doesn’t lock up that kind of money in an RT. With that kind of contract, the Chiefs would be paying out $13 million to $14 million a year on our three tackles. To put that number in perspective, the Chiefs spent $5,873,835 on the contacts of all six of the team’s interior offensive linemen. Only six teams spent more than $12 million on their tackles last year – Carolina, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami, Washington and Tennessee. Obviously this wasn’t the only factor, but you will notice that only two of those teams had a winning record last year. The two teams in the Super Bowl each had less than $7 million locked up in the tackle position.
So, if Albert wants to stay and be the one of the best-paid right tackles in football, great. He made $4,192,500 last year, so $6 million is a 43% percent pay increase. Not too bad. But, the Chiefs should not offer a dollar more. This saves us more than$3 million this year and we can use that to bring in another good player or two at a different position. Our new #2 WR Donnie Avery is averaging less than $3 million a year. So is NT Dontari Poe, WR Dexter McCluster and OLB Justin Houston
If Albert thinks he can get more on the open market, the Chiefs should allow him to give it a shot. If he does get more, then that contract offer will guarantee that the Chiefs will get at least a 4th-round, but probably a 3rd-round compensatory pick for him, which is essentially all the team would have gotten for him in the trade to Miami.
Either way, everyone wins.