Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs Are Right To Promote Stephenson


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Two weeks ago, I made the case for why I thought the Chiefs should give DE Tyson Jackson a big thank you hug and then let him go in free agency with Allen Bailey taking over in his place.

I think the Chiefs should do the same with LT’s Branden Albert and Donald Stephenson, and reports suggest that such a move is likely.

The argument is simple: Stephenson is a starting-quality tackle and we can’t afford to keep Albert anyway. However, unlike with Bailey, who I think could star with extra snaps, the Chiefs’ approach to the LT position this offseason is more about financial necessity.

As has already been discussed on the site, Albert will hit free agency as his franchise-tag deal expires and is gone. There should be no doubt about that. If the Chiefs could not agree to a contract extension with Albert back when they were swimming in cash, there is no way that they are going to do it now that they are desperate to get squeak under the cap.

I’ve actually read a lot of angst in the comments about this reality, with many skeptics saying this illustrates a defeat on the side of GM John Dorsey. I strongly disagree.

Last year, the team was trying to shore up multiple positions at once, it was faced with a player that wanted a lucrative, long-term extension when the team knew that seeking the best value at the 1st overall draft spot was going to mean replacing that player long term. So, they chose the middle path and I think it has worked out for all sides. Albert earned himself $9.828 million under the salary cap and he gave the Chiefs a pro-bowl season and a playoff berth. He also gave the Chiefs time to develop the two guys that are lined up to replace him — neither of which were ready for the job at the beginning of last season.

In Stephenson’s first action as a starter this season, he was replacing that draft pick, Eric Fisher, on the right side, and was awful. Pro Football Focus gave him a combined score of -11.4 against the Giants and Titans in those two games, but “held his own” when replacing Albert on the right side against Washington. He also was graded positively in two more games he started at right tackle later in the season, including the second-highest overall grade for the team in the final game against the Chargers, according to PFF.

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That switching back and forth with Fisher may continue to happen throughout the offseason. Like Stephenson, he was dreadful at times in the first half of the season, but came on stronger towards the end. Commentators regularly suggest that he needs to improve his upper body strength and should be greatly improved after a full offseason at the Chiefs’ facilities.

Overall, I don’t think its the worst idea to allow Stephenson and Fisher to compete for the LT slot early in the offseason. After all, I assume the team would like Fisher to end up there long term. But, it’d be good to have the tackle situation settled sooner rather than later as these two are young and their play would most likely suffer if they’re changing positions multiple times during the season.

The key to this plan is one of my “no-brainer’s” from December — re-signing Geoff Schwartz. Not only did Schwartz end up with the best PFF grade among Chiefs O-linemen at +18.6, he has experience at both guard and tackle and provides versatility and insurance should either Stephenson or Fisher struggle in a serious way. It’d also be nice if the team could bring back RG Jon Asamoah (whom Schwartz replaced late in the season), but he will likely command starter’s money in the offseason and money is something the Chiefs do not have.

It appears this is going to happen.

Again, in a perfect world the Chiefs would be able to find a way to keep all of their best players until retirement, but that’s not the way the league works and this turnover at the tackle position actually shows that Dorsey knows what he is doing. We had a guy who wanted a big pay day and a long-term deal that we wanted to replace with younger players. Those players weren’t ready, so we cut him a check for $9.8 million and he gave us a great season. Now, those cheaper, younger guys are ready to replace him and he can get paid somewhere else. That’s good management at work.

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Tags: Branden Albert Donald Stephenson Eric Fisher Free Agency Geoff Schwartz Jon Asamoah

  • Stacy D. Smith

    My only concern is having another learning curve, at two spots this time, in the second year of this offense. Hard to imagine they’ll keep Fisher on the right given his contract.

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      Well, it’s not so much a learning curve because Stephenson played both spots in 2013 and Fisher played LT in college, so it’s nothing totally new. Still, everything depends on their continued progression. I’d expect things to be a bit rough out of the gate. Good thing everyone back there — Smith included — can run.

      • Tony Parker

        So College to the NFL is not a learning curve???? Nothing new? fish from RT to LT in the NFL?? give me a break, stop drinking the Koolaid, we have a big concern and nothing we can do about it but hope.

        • NicholasAlanClayton

          I said it’s nothing “totally” new and that “I’d expect things to be a bit rough out of the gate.” In short, no reason to panic, reason to be concerned, but I’m optimistic. At this point, it’s about whether Fisher can bulk up and progress mentally at the NFL level overall, not about where he is on the line.

    • Tony Parker

      I know, it is a huge concern, will the O take a step back because of it? very frustrating. Its hard to imagine Fish protecting the blind side…..sigh.

  • cd3382

    I think when its all said and done, Fisher will be the starting LT entering training camp.

    • Tony Parker

      That’s not necessarily a good thing, Fish looked terrible all year, got outplayed and hurt constantly. Our O-line is in bad shape no matter how you look at it, looks like we take a step back in that department. its a shame.

  • berttheclock

    Really looking as though Mr Albert will depart. One interesting facet of his play of late, was Pro Football Focus rated him far higher as a pass blocker than they did in run blocking, where they rated him somewhere in the minus two range. The Chiefs need far better run blocking at that position. I know Stacy disagrees with me, but, I would like to see if Dorsey can bring in Carimi as a backup. He was cut back to a backup role with the Bucs prior to being cut and I can not fathom any NFL team willing to match his salary of last season. He will end up only commanding backup play. If he ends up playing next to Schwartz, we will have The Bagel Boys on the field. Offensive lines need backups. As we can not promote Russell Wilson, then, move Stephenson up to RT, Fisher to LT, sign Schwartz to a starting role and have such as Carimi as a backup. I still am very concerned about the lack of blocking skills by Jeff Allen. At times, last season, he reminded me of Sims and other busts from the past as he was nothing but a dance partner for defensive linemen or just a quick turning turnstile. In fact, I thought of him as a Maitre’D who introduced defensive players to their table with Alex Smith. I have absolutely no idea why Andy Reid sees anything valuable in him.

    • berttheclock

      BTW, as to Geoff Schwartz, anyone notice the thread to the right of this thread about the needs of the Jets at guard? Sort of disconcerting to see Schwartz mentioned as a possible pickup by the Jets. Big need to resign him by Dorsey. Please, find the money.

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      I’m fine with bringing Carimi in as a camp body. But when a team trades for you and the first order of business by the new coach who drafted you in the first place is to cut you that same year — that’s about as big of a red flag as they come.

      • berttheclock

        One of the problems was his refusal to move to guard. One other was his over $1.3 M guaranteed coming due. Plus, there had been problems with his refusal to come to “Voluntary” training, as he was working out privately with a trainer.

        However, it does bring up the very valid point of anyone cut or even a potential trade that being “Why were you no longer wanted with your old team”.

    • Tony Parker

      c’mon bert, it’s like bringing back an old girlfriend, it just doesn’t work. we need talent. He was a backup in tampa for a reason. we do need talent but Carimi is not the answer, sorry Bert.

  • tm1946

    As long as we get a decent LT and RT out of it, I am good no matter how it plays out.

    Got an issue with Fisher being the #1 out of college and does not dominate the conversation about our OL. He will get better I am sure but where did the Chiefs miss the boat with 300 colleges, 50 odd guys at each and we get a passable RT. Bigger issue than how good Stephenson is doing, no team can make a championship run with near misses early in the draft.

    • Calchiefsfan

      I hold out hope that Fisher follows the same road as Joe Staley or does him better. Staley allowed 8.5 sacks his rookie year at RT then he was moved to LT his second year and allowed another 8 sacks. But he developed into a perennial pro bowler at LT. It appears coming from a small school takes time to get used to the NFL, (see Dontari Poe).

      • tm1946

        Fine by me but we seem to be talking “potential”. I hate that. Potential, to me, just means you have not done your job yet.
        Also, in today’s NFL, 1, 2, and 3 need to play, and play at a high level. And the top pick in the entire draft needs to be a stud from day one.
        Fisher will be at least ok to great but disappointing to me today.

      • Tony Parker

        potential has no place in a #1 overall pick. he better be ready to play now and if not, it was a wasted pick.

        • Calchiefsfan

          And the better pick for the Chiefs was?

        • cyberry

          It’s funny.. I have never heard that except for fans.. BTW..Fisher is actually only the 4th Non-Quarterback taken with the first pick since 2000.. and only 7 #1 picks ever made it to the Pro-Bowl..(i guess 8 if you include Alex Smith going as an alternate…). So just because your picked first means..”automatic greatness” is just a wives tale… I’ve always read..that when rookie players have struggles did they work through them get better and show progress.. Which Fisher did.. It was stated that Eric wasn’t the “NFL ready lineman” but he was the player with the highest ceiling and that it would take a little time.. but it would come..

    • Tony Parker

      I think that mgmt shit the bed on the hoping to trade Albert to Miami deal last year,
      Fisher better get a lot better and tougher than what he showed in year 1, or we are in trouble for many years to come.

  • Stan Colbert

    I feel better about the tackle position than our other need positions. I am not sure Bailey will replace T. Jack adequately. I think Stephenson and Schwartz on the right side would be a dynamic run random on rt. side should Andy ever decide to run. Fisher/Stephenson will become a good pair but losing Albert will be a drop off in performance next year.

  • jimfromkcj

    How can you ever expect to build a team to go to the super bowl with such stupid management? We lost Carr without getting anything except a 4th rd pick for compensation. It looks like we will lose Albert and Jackson this year without getting anything but a possible compensatory picks and we have screwed up Bowe’s contract to the point that we will probably lose him the same way, We have Hali and Flowers who are not complete players making way too much money and probably untradeable because of the salaries that a team would have to eat. So we got the wrong guy from Green bay, Maybe Reggie MacKenzie who seems to be doing a good job of working through the Raider mess which was worse than ours should have been our pick.

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      All Miami was offering for Albert last year was a 3rd-round pick. We’ll most likely get a 3rd-round compensatory pick for him this year anyway, and we still got a Pro Bowl year out of him. Same result, more benefits. I also really don’t see how you can conclude that “Reggie MacKenzie who seems to be doing a good job” in Oakland when he nearly got fired this year and the team was once again a bottom-feeder, while Dorsey engineered the most abrupt turnaround of a team in U.S. sports history.

      • jimfromkcj

        Actually what the Dolphins offered was the 77th pick, the 3rd rd comp pick would have been 97th or more. Of course there will always be controversy when you bite the bullet and do what has to be doe to rectify what has put your team behind the 8 all. But he did it and the Raiders are better off for it. I dare say that the Raiders are in much better shape than the Chiefs going forward. They are about to get out from under dead money that was killing them. They have some pretty good core players who still have lots of tread on them. And they are pretty well set to get some good players in this draft and have cap space for a couple of Fa’s if they become available. We are in reallybad shape cap wise and w have two choices and neither are good.

        • NicholasAlanClayton

          I don’t think you can really compare the Raiders and the Chiefs right now. The Chiefs are up against the cap because they have had to pay to retain some really good players — as exemplified by the fact that the team had 10 players in the Pro Bowl. The Raiders have tons of cap room because they’ve shed most of their good players and now have significantly less talent on their roster (including no QB) than the Chiefs and sent just one player to the Pro Bowl. That player is a fullback, and while very good, he comes from the possibly the cheapest and lowest-demand position in the 21st century version of the game. So, while Oakland has much greater flexibility going into this season, having cash is no guarantee of making good acquisitions and they have to do so across the board. You can give MacKenzie the benefit of the doubt, but he hasn’t done much to dazzle yet, just remember what became of all of his moves at the QB position — trade for Flynn, then cut him midseason, use a 4th-rounder on Tyler Wilson, then cut him preseason, and hand things over to Tyrell Pryor until he burned it down. Some undrafted kid held down the fort for a bit, but no one thinks he’s the answer.

          • jimfromkcj

            Nick, I call what Reggie did in regard to the QB position courageous, How many times have the Chiefs had duds and kept them around for far too long. Cassel for instance. Jackson for another. If you aren’t man enough to admit a mistake and move to change it right away you aren’t someone I want running the Chiefs. Too many fans want to win, but they don’t like what it takes to win. They want to fall in love with a player ad then ignore what his capabilities are. For crying out loud, we have 9 pro bowlers and can’t even come close to winning our division let alone a super bowl.

          • KCMikeG

            So Reggie was courageous because he screwed the pooch so bad at QB that he had to go through four of them last year and still failed. I guess you could call the captain who goes down with his ship courageous – except for the fact that he steered the ship into troubled waters with his decisions.

            Not even close to winning our division?? WTH are you talking about? If the donkeys don’t squeak out the win in KC we are both 12-4. Reality check.

            You can’t hang Cassel, Albert, Jackson, Hali or Flowers on Dorsey anyway. Hali & Flowers both had their big pay days before Dorsey arrived and I would bet that one or both see restricting in the off season. They are all previous regime’s work. Why isn’t Dorsey courageous for dumping Cassel & trading for Alex Smith? He was light years better than any of the four losers Reggie came up with. Albert was shopped but the truth is nobody really wanted him because the market says he’s not worth what he wants. Same story with Jackson. He has never played up to his draft position but at least Dorsey was able wisely able to get another salary concession from him. Listen to all the news about teams clamoring to get their hands on him…..funny all I can hear are crickets.

            We got the wrong guy from GB? WTH? Reggie has been there two years already and has back to back 4-12 seasons, a team in chaos without any leadership with some of the most humiliating games in faider history happening last year. They have no clue at QB and word is Cassel and Vick are under consideration – that’s going to turn out so well for them. Their best hope at RB is a back up from the Jags. They have so many holes they would be lucky to be a .500 team even with $60M to spend. Big dollar FA’s always work out so well too.

            Dorsey brought in key pieces that led to the greatest turn around in our history. You call that stupid yet continued failures in chokeland show they are “better off for it”? Reggie and HC Allen are both on their last year and if they can’t turn it around with $60M to spend then they will both be unemployed. Can’t believe you have the nerve to compare after we go from worst to the playoffs in this administration’s first year while the faiders continue to stumble around in the dark cellar.

          • Tony Parker

            The Chiefs are up against the cap because of the spending spree last year when they actually had money.

          • antony555

            I conclude with the spending spree of last year to be the mark of business management at its best.
            Without doing so there is no way the Chiefs go 11 @ 5 this last season, give Dorsey credit we had players but no team!
            This also will take more than one year to turn around and be consistent.
            Of course we as fans after given a taste of winning again want nothing else, but as much as it is entertainment to us its business management that’s going to prevail in the end.
            I for one think its not a sound step to allow Albert to walk especially when the broncos get their franchise left tackle back from injury in 2014 to protect Manning’s blind side, and we do it by committee. AS11 is going to have a hard enough time as it is due to whom we play.
            Hopefully he can pull something out of his hat that will keep us competitive for the entire season..

    • Tony Parker

      I hear you on that buddy. we tried to trade BA last year under the franchise and now we let him walk, we could tag him and get best available draft pick for him but what if we get stuck with him…then what?
      past management has been terrible and our current mgmt. needs to clean it up. stuck between a rock and a hard place. very sad state of affairs.
      If I was GM, which I’m not, I would get try to trade Bowe for draft picks, he is nothing more than dead weight.

  • Stan Colbert

    Right now, looks like Stephenson our best lineman. We don’t have much for guard, and Fish at left tackle. Looks like another rebuilding year to me. I hope we can re-sign Schwartz.