What this means
The additions of Rankin and Wisniewski back to the mix likely signal a couple things for the Chiefs offensive line, although it’s important to keep proper perspective on it all.
First, remember that these things can take time. Yes, Rankin has already been back in practice for weeks for the Chiefs, but it’s also true that he’s suffered a serious leg injury that can alter or even end the careers of some athletes. Juan Thornhill is currently working through concerns of being a different player on the other side of a serious leg injury himself, so let’s not assume that everyone returns as expected.
Second, the same injury concerns also exist for Wisniewski. Every player hits a wall and, after playing nearly a decade in the NFL, Wisniewski missed the first half of this season due to injury before Pittsburgh also decided to move on to younger options. The appreciated ability of a player one season can slip due to declining skills or injury during the next season. In short, we’re not exactly sure what Wisniewski has left to offer.
That said, the Chiefs could have shelved Rankin for the year to free up a roster spot for someone healthy if he was not. The Chiefs also would have done their due diligence on Wisniewski just the same and the Chiefs signed them both up for service for the second half of the season.
It’s very possible here that we’re looking at one or potentially two new starters along the offensive interior. Nick Allegretti has done a solid job holding things down as a former seventh rounder from last season, but the invitation of two more guards to a mix that already has enough mediocre contestants means that the Chiefs view the imports as better options. (Remember, the Chiefs had also brought back the likes of Bryan Witzmann here, too.)
The easy bet is that some competition of Rankin and Wisniewski emerges as the new starter at left guard and the Chiefs breathe a bit easier knowing they have depth and security with a higher ceiling the starting lineup.
The potential long shot bet here is that Wisniewski, who was a starting center for four full seasons in Oakland and Jacksonville, is asked how comfortable he’d feel in the middle. The Chiefs have shifted between Reiter and Kilgore and back to Reiter and it’s interesting to see where that could go with Wisniewski also potentially available. That said, we’re talking about 2015 as the last year he was a starter, so we doubt it (we told you it was a long shot).
Either way, competition should keep everyone on their toes and the options are here to play with the front five even more to find a better overall combination.