Help Us Branden Albert, You’re Our Only Hope


October 14, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Daniel Te

If defense wins championships and offense is the key to victory, what cheesy cliché is there to utter about the offensive line?

They protect our multiple round draft pick that many say we shouldn’t have traded for?

That doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

They spring Jamaal Charles like a jailbreak so he can run like the cops are chasing him?

Again, not aurally pleasing.

What can we say? The Kansas City Chiefs’ hogs up front aren’t pretty like a Jamaal Charles cut and sprint towards the end zone. They’re not full of finesse like Dwayne Bowe catching a pass on the sideline and tip toeing both feet in bounds to move the chains. They’re not either one of those things. I will tell you what they are. They’re mean, they’re nasty and they have the potential to be the best offensive line in the NFL this season.

If (yes, there’s an “if” involved) the starting five can manage to stay healthy, and (yes, an “if” and an “and”) Branden Albert shows up.

Speaking of Branden Albert, let’s talk about Kansas City’s wayward son.

Word on the street is, former Chiefs’ general manager, Scott Pioli, was trying to work a long term deal with Albert’s people last year prior to Pioli being fired. That extension never materialized and when the new regime couldn’t strike a deal with Albert prior to the free agent deadline earlier this year, they applied the franchise tag to Albert. In a nutshell, this means the Chiefs own the rights to Albert for the 2013 season and must pay him $9.8 million for the year.

The Chiefs have three options at this point.

Option #1: Trade Albert

The biggest sticking point with a potential trade is the gaining team will insist on agreeing to a new contract in principle before completing the trade. This will ensure their investment is protected and they’ll keep the traded player for longer than the one year the player is franchised.

The Chiefs tried to broker a trade with the Miami Dolphins for Albert in the week leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft. The Dolphins reportedly agreed to Albert’s contract demands but were unwilling to give into the Chiefs’ demands for a 2nd round draft pick in this year’s draft. This caused the transaction to fall through and Albert to remains on the roster.

Option #2: Allow Albert to Play Under the Franchise Tag

This is probably the most likely option for the Chiefs this season. If this course of action is followed, Albert will be under contract to attend all “mandatory” team activities, OTA’s, training camp and games. If he skips any of these activities, he would be fined which would affect his bottom line. Since this whole conversation is about money, Chiefs fans can rest assured that Albert won’t do anything that will take cash out of his wallet. Some fans and Albert critics are concerned that Albert won’t “try as hard” this season under this option because he’s unhappy and disgruntled. Let me dispel those rumors.

A: The man is a professional football player who has nearly ten million reasons this season to perform to utmost of his ability.

B: This is essentially a contract year for him. Not only will the Chiefs’ coaching team and front office personnel be keeping a very close eye on Albert but so will coaches and GMs from other potential landing spots for him next season should he become a free agent. This will cause Albert to almost “over perform” in an effort to impress all parties involved with his play.

In the end, trust me; he’s not going to “call in” his performance this season.

Option #3: Sign Albert to a Long Term Contract

This is perhaps the best case scenario with Branden Albert, however at this point the least likely, in my opinion. I say this for a couple of reasons. Despite what I just said about Albert being a professional, I think he’s probably still a bit salty about the failed Dolphin contract. This failed transaction may have soured him on his desire to remain the starting left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs beyond the 2013 season. I’m not saying he won’t sign a long term deal; I’m just saying he may need a bit more convincing than he would with another team.

One thing the Chiefs did gain out of the talks with the Dolphins was  they found out exactly how much money it would take to get Albert to say “yes” to a contract – at least if that contract was in South Beach. The Chiefs, along with the rest of us reading the reports in the news, learned that Albert is looking for money similar to what former Dolphin Jake Long got from the St. Louis Rams, which is around the neighborhood of $36 million for four years. Time will tell if that’s what the Chiefs are willing to pay the man who has protected Kansas City’s blind side for the past five seasons.

All that being said, why should the Chiefs fight to keep Albert long term? The Chiefs just drafted perhaps the best left tackle to come out of the NCAA since the formerly mentioned Jake Long. This has caused some discord with Albert, who has repeatedly stated he does not want to play right tackle. Andy Reid took the first step to set Albert’s mind at ease on that front.

"“And so, you never know, I mean, in this business you’d love to say that he’d be here or not be here, one of the two, but I know he’s a good kid, I know he’s a hard worker and I know he’s a good left tackle. So that gives us a whole lot of flexibility, and if he was here today he would be the left tackle.”–          Andy Reid"

In typical Andy Reid-ese, he’s essentially said that Albert is penciled in at left tackle. That leaves Eric Fisher at right tackle and the best two guards and center in between. You see, Andy Reid believes you play the “best five guys” on the offensive line. Apparently he thinks Albert is the best bet to protect Alex Smith’s blindside. I’m inclined to agree. Here’s why.

Since arriving in Kansas City, Albert has only allowed his assigned defender to get to the quarterback 27 times in 73 games played. That’s one sack every three games. I like those odds. Keep in mind, he managed to provide this supreme protection with substandard quarterbacks who generally held onto the ball entirely too long. Through all of this, Albert held up his end of the deal and only got beat once every three games.

If you put an above average quarterback under center (save the Alex Smith argument for another time) who can move through his reads quickly, as well as a quick moving, West Coast Offense, this bodes well for Albert’s protection of the Chiefs’ most important asset. If you look at Alex Smith’s stats, he was sacked 68 times in the last two seasons. That’s more than 2.5 sacks per game. Not all of those sacks came from his blind side. However, it would stand to reason that if he can throw with the accuracy he displayed while being under pressure as he was in San Francisco, imagine what Smith can do with some time behind the best O-Line in the NFL. And, Albert won’t have to do it by himself. Along with Eric Fisher, Albert will most likely be playing alongside Geoff Schwartz, Rodney Hudson and Jon Asamoah who will hold down the center of the line.  

I know I made the argument through the talks with the Dolphins that the Chiefs should trade Albert. I believed since the Chiefs could have potentially gotten back into the second round of a draft full of high caliber second round talent, and they were predisposed to selecting Albert’s replacement with the first overall pick it was the smartest thing to do. I stand firm by that line of thinking. But that was then and this is now. The trade talks have died, the Chiefs have a high caliber player in Albert as well as a guy who can anchor their line for many years to come in Fisher. If Reid can make this whole thing work, the Chiefs have taken a huge step towards turning around that 2-14 season to one full of wins and happy Chiefs fans on Sunday afternoons this fall.

What do you think, Addicts? Should the Chiefs hold onto Albert or continue to find trading partners for him and take less than what he’s worth? Let me know!

Until next time, Addicts!