Cam Erving is a pricey substitute for the Chiefs offensive line

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23: Cameron Erving #75 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on during warms ups before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23: Cameron Erving #75 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on during warms ups before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Cameron Erving is making more than several starters throughout the league as a man without a position for the Chiefs.

On the surface, Cameron Erving looks expensive.

If Erving were, at this point, listed as the Kansas City Chief starting left guard, which is exactly the title he enjoyed last season, the price tag wouldn’t be an issue. Maybe it still isn’t. But it is, at least, a notable point, something worth discussion given the fact that Erving has no place to call his own.

Erving is the Chiefs sixth man, the versatile product off the bench able to step in at a moment’s notice into pretty much every single spot along the offensive front. That’s valuable, yes, but how valuable. And how much does a team need a single player to be able to step in when there’s room for most rosters to carry 9 or even 10 linemen on the active roster.

Erving first came to the Chiefs via a low-risk trade on the part of general manager Brett Veach who was new to his role at the time. He immediately turned around and made trades for Erving and linebacker Reggie Ragland on buy-low deals from the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills, respectively. The idea is straightforward and noble: try to strike it rich with guys who were once heralded prospects by surrounding them with new coaches and teammates.

Erving has fared slightly better with the Chiefs than he did in Cleveland but not by much. At least in K.C., he’s not known as a former first round bust, but even so, he’s not taken advantage of any opportunity given him to lock down a starting role across the offensive line. Pro Football Focus rates him as a below average lineman even four years into his career, and although his pass block proficiency has increased quite a bit, he’s still viewed as a liability in the run game and and a below average starter overall.

At this point, Erving is a known quantity, having had the chance to show what he can do for two separate franchises. It wasn’t that Cleveland was a toxic place to enter the NFL; rather, it was Erving was never worth the first round investment placed on him.

That said, Erving does have value and the Chiefs interestingly gave him a two-year deal last September worth $8.27 million. It was interesting because the Chiefs had just handed the left guard spot to him. Perhaps they thought he’d grow into the role and become the sort of athletic talent scouts envisioned him to be when he declared for the draft out of Florida State back in 2015. The goal seems like it was to get ahead of any price increase that would come with more playing time. Unfortunately, Erving looked even more exposed than before and made it clear that he wouldn’t be starting in 2019.

Erving committed 15 total penalties on the year, including 3 in the playoffs alone. A player simply cannot afford to make those careless errors and expect to keep his starting position, but Erving didn’t even have the ability to back that up. Erving also allowed an incredible 32 quarterback pressures, per PFF, which is another miserable total itself. When partnered with penalties, it’s clear why K.C. has turned to Andrew Wylie in that spot.

So what should fans make of Erving’s presence on the roster and salary cap hit of nearly $3.2 million. Exactly 100 NFL linemen are paid more than Erving. If you simplify every team’s starting offensive line into a clean five spots, it means that Erving is making more than 60 starting figures (including two on his own team in Austin Reiter and Wylie).

The good news for the Chiefs is that Erving is at least experienced at myriad spots along the offensive line, even at the pro level, including long stints at left guard, right guard and center along with left tackle experience. Having someone who can be that super sub makes sense, at least on the surface.

But what if that player is below average? What then is the advantage? Are there not other players with a potentially higher ceiling who could use the reps and regular season experience to show what they can do? What does Erving’s presence bring to the Chiefs at this point? These are questions without easy answers.

It’s possible the Chiefs enjoy the security that Erving brings. He might be average to below average but at least there’s a known floor. There is  value in that, whether it’s sexy or not, and perhaps it’s worth $3-4 million.

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That said, it’s a head-scratcher to imagine Erving sticking around for more than just this year. Next year, when his cap hit is $4.6M, there’s zero dead cap to keep him hanging around. A smart bet would say that Erving will likely try to extend his career with a third NFL team after the 2019 season is over.