Kansas City Chiefs trade idea: Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Jack Mewhort
By Matt Conner
Since Brett Veach has proven before that he’s willing to go out and grab a player, how about Indianapolis Colts guard Jack Mewhort?
A web search for Jack Mewhort brings up all the current relevant terms associated with him. It’s a list that an NFL player would never want to see. “Roster bubble” and “players under pressure” are some of the headlines under which Mewhort is discussed at length, a sign that perhaps things aren’t as rosy as expected for the Ohio State product in Indianapolis.
Over the last four years, Mewhort has ridden a bit of a rollercoaster with the Colts. For a team with a below average offensive line for years and years (going back to Peyton Manning’s tenure), Mewhort was brought in as a versatile salve in the second round in the 2014 NFL Draft and immediately stepped in to help. He started 14 of 16 games his rookie season and started the entire year in 2015, giving him 30 total starts through his first two years.
For the last two years, however, a recurring knee injury has cut each season short, sidelining him to the injured reserve list in both 2016 and 2017. Mewhort has only 15 starts over the last two years, including five last year. Heading into free agency, Mewhort didn’t even play well when he was on the field, earning a poor 46.1 grade from Pro Football Focus last season.
The end result in free agency was a one-year deal to come back with the team that initially drafted him and show up strong once again. Mewhort will earn only $1.5 million from the Colts in 2018 and says he’s feeling good and that he’s able to play at a high level. Yet even then, he’s being considered a possibility to be cut by Chris Ballard because the Colts now have other options, having learned not to lean on Mewhort over the last two seasons.
Ballard entered the draft last year with one main agenda: fix the offensive front. The team selected the safest overall prospect in the first round in Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson at No. 6 overall and then took Vanderbilt’s Braden Smith in the second round to grab another guard. Matt Slauson was a free agent addition who is not a bad starting option as well meaning Mewhort might be on the outside looking in. In a best case scenario for the Colts, Mewhort has to play his butt off in order to even make the team. Competition can be a good thing.
A trade from the Colts perspective
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But what about a team on the outside. Mewhort earned solid grades his first two years in the league as a promising left guard who started immediately. For the Kansas City Chiefs, head coach Andy Reid made it clear that he wasn’t going to be able to determine what the team will do there until training camp because no one had stepped up during offseason training activities. Parker Ehinger has started before. Bryan Witzmann has as well. Yet Alex Hunter, an undrafted free agent tackle out of Bowling Green, was earning starter’s reps earlier this offseason. Does that mean something?
If so, Mewhort makes an interesting trade candidate. If he’s on the roster bubble, Ballard might like to get some sort of low-level draft compensation out of a one-year player who has become a luxury—that is, if he feels good about the state of his offensive line depth (a rare treat for Colts fans). If Nelson and Slauson hold down the starting spots and Smith is there waiting in the wings to be the next man up, and the rest of the line would be fine, why not recoup a Day 3 pick and build toward your next draft class?
A trade from the Chiefs perspective
For the Chiefs, Mewhort could be a stellar addition in that he would answer a few questions for the Chiefs even as he brings his own. Let’s break this down:
Best Case Scenario: Mewhort works hard to earn a major payday in free agency next year knowing he’s got one shot to show himself healthy. The Chiefs enjoy a nice full year of starts from a once-promising left guard who can elevate the entire line due to shoring up the biggest weakness along the offensive front.
Picture the Chiefs offense, already as tough as it is, finding a real answer at left guard. If Mitch Morse is healthy at center and Mewhort (or someone) can take over at left guard in a way that takes away any real competition for the starting spot, the Chiefs will be very, very tough up front. The bookends are already there, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has the right side locked down. Mewhort’s potential is higher than anyone on the Chiefs and he could take things to the next level.
Middling Scenario: Mewhort isn’t as healthy as he thinks and misses a few games. Still Mewhort could plug in as a starter when he’s available and if the Chiefs want more consistency than that, Mewhort has the sort of versatility to be a Zach Fulton type. He started at left tackle at Ohio State against the best college competition, and he’s also played right tackle during his first two years in the NFL. Then again, he’s also started games at both left and right guard, which means Mewhort could be incredible valuable as a depth piece and spot starter for a thin offensive front.
The Chiefs are leaning on unproven players like Cam Erving at tackle right now, although they do have whoever is not starting among Witzmann and/or Ehinger in the middle. Adding someone like Mewhort would ease any nerves about depth and give the Chiefs someone in case injuries happen along the line somewhere mid-season.
The plus side in all of this is that Mewhort is a mere $1.5 million and a one-year commitment. If it works, wonderful. If not, no big deal. There’s so little downside to this idea other than the loss of a Day 3 pick which the Chiefs are already loaded on the front end of the draft anyway, even without accounting for compensatory picks (which can also be dealt).
Worst Case Scenario: The Chiefs trade for Mewhort and he once again injures his knee early and is lost for the season. At that point, the Chiefs are out a pick and a mill-and-a-half.
What would it take
If the Chiefs offered Ballard a fifth round choice in the 2019 NFL Draft, does he not take it? He was not the one who invested in Mewhort in the first place, and he’s only got control of this asset for another year as it is. If the line is set enough to handle dealing away a former prospect, then why not begin to build your draft assets for another year.
Ballard knows well that the Colts are still a couple draft classes away from being where he wants to get them, so he’s definitely not finished flipping current assets for future ones. The relationship is there. The need is there on both sides. Unless he thinks the compensatory pick would be more than what the Chiefs could offer, it could be worth a deal.