The K.C. Chiefs have made one thing clear coming into this offseason: they expect an intense competition for anyone to claim a starting offensive line spot in 2021.
On Tuesday, the team came to a one-year contract agreement with free agent veteran Austin Blythe, a move that served to bolster the tremendous depth and experience already gathered for the offensive interior. It’s just the latest acquisition or re-signing intended to promote competition for the five important spots tasked with protecting Patrick Mahomes in 2021.
At this point, the Chiefs still have plenty of runway left in free agency and a full draft class ahead of them, so it’s very likely that two or three more names will be included among the players who are already competing for a spot along the offensive line. However, if the season started today, the Chiefs would also look solid at most spots, save for tackle questions in the wake of the releases of Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz.
Blythe joins the Chiefs after starting all 16 games at center for the L.A. Rams last season. However, it’s important to note that he was a starter at guard for two seasons before that, making him a very versatile player with the capability to slide as team needs arise. He could find himself competing to replace Austin Reiter with a rookie pick, but Nick Allegretti also makes sense as a potential center candidate, even though he had left guard locked down after Kelechi Osemele was lost for the ’20 season after only five games. Allegretti played center in college at Illinois.
The K.C. Chiefs interior line is going to be very competitive.
As for the actual guard spots, Joe Thuney is locked in to be the starter on the left side given the team’s tremendous investment of an $80 million contract. That said, there’s no shortage of other options in case something happens to Thuney or in the instance that Thuney himself needs to play elsewhere. (He’s started at center as recently as last season, and he’s taken reps at tackle in practice.)
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is returning from a year away from the game and will want to reclaim his starting right guard role. LDT is a solid player who should be able to step right in—that is, if Kyle Long will allow him. Long himself was out all of last year after retiring early in 2020, but he’s back and inspired to play again after some distance from the game.
If all of those options somehow flame out, the Chiefs also chose to bring back Andrew Wylie, who was a restricted free agent. Wylie has started at both left guard and right guard in the past couple years for the Chiefs, giving them yet another dependable player who can start in a.pinch. The same can be said for Mike Remmers, who can play guard but is likely to compete at right tackle while the team hopes rookie Lucas Niang can adjust quickly to the pro level after opting out last season as well.
Behind all of these options is a returning Martinas Rankin, who might look healthier than ever heading into the ’21 season. The former third-round pick of the Houston Texans comes with experience at tackle and guard, giving the Chiefs even more flexibility and someone else to compete.
The Chiefs are likely to bring in a high-level investment along the offensive line—perhaps even one in the first round—so it’s impossible to judge things just yet, especially at left tackle. However, this team has made it a serious priority to get better at a problem area for the team last year. If injuries begin to take a toll once again, the Chiefs have more built-in security and versatility than ever before.