Should the Kansas City Chiefs retain Zach Fulton?

In 2014 the then general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs John Dorsey doubled down in the draft at the guard position. In the sixth round Dorsey took future doctor Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Zach Fulton, both were project players that had decent upside to become starters at a position of need for the Chiefs.

Zach Fulton was not given the time to really sit on the bench and develop. He was forced into starting action after the loss of Jon Asamoha and Geoff Schwartz to free agency before the draft. Reports from camp were that he was much better than any other player the Chiefs had to play right guard at the time. Fulton started every game for the Chiefs that year and struggled throughout the season, finishing with a 46.6 final grade from Pro Football Focus. He was also ranked at 68 out of 70 qualifying guards in the league by Bleacher Report after his first season, Fulton was underwhelming for fans to say the least.

Fast forward to 2018 and Zach Fulton has developed into a versatile piece for the Chiefs. He played both left guard, and center for the team this season and played decently at both. Versatility is something that is coveted by every team in the NFL but when it comes to contract negotiations it can complicate things.

As was just stated Fulton knows how to play left guard and center, the major difference here is what position he wants to be paid as. When he was drafted, he was supposed to be the possible future at one of the guard positions. The fact that he also turned out to be a suitable center as well was a welcome surprise, especially since in his draft profile he was not projected to be able to play there.

Per Over The Cap, the average per year for the top ten left guards in the NFL is 7,280,695. We all know that Fulton is not a top ten left guard, so comparing him to the top 15 guards in the league would be more appropriate since Fulton is about average. That average per year comes out to 6,138,522 which would still be high for a player that has mostly been a backup for the Chiefs.

Fulton has proven that he is a much better center than he is a left guard, the smaller the “phone booth” is for him the more he can lock opposing players down with his raw strength. Since Fulton has had more success as a center, I would expect he will be looking to be paid as one. When looking at the center position it is a little bit more, but not by much. The top ten centers yearly average is 8,929,293 and the top 15 centers yearly average is 7,729,717. Zach Fulton was rated by PFF as the 14th ranked center in the league so he should be looking to get somewhere around that 7.8 million a year.

Another thing to consider when it comes to paying Fulton as a center is the fact the Chiefs already have a one in Mitch Morse who has proven to be a very good. He was named the Chiefs “Secret Superstar” coming into the season after not allowing a single sack the entire 2016 season. Unfortunately Morse was hurt in the second game of the season and was never really able to get back to form and was put on injured reserve soon after.

When you add in the fact that both Bryan Witzmann and Parker Ehinger have started at left guard for the Chiefs over the past couple years, and even though there is still a need for either an upgrade position or improved play from either Witzmann or Ehinger, Fulton was not able to beat out either for the starting gig. Should the Chiefs pay around $6 to 8 million a year on a player that will primarily be a backup?

Fulton will most likely be looking to go somewhere that is willing to give him a chance to be a starter, which he has little chance of becoming here. In this case, the chances of the Chiefs being able to convince Fulton to take less than what his current market value is to stay just to be a backup or rotational piece are slim at best.