What does Kyle Long’s contract tell us about the KC Chiefs expectations?

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Kyle Long #75 of the Chicago Bears looks on during the second half against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 23, 2019 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Kyle Long #75 of the Chicago Bears looks on during the second half against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 23, 2019 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

One of the most intriguing moves of this offseason’s free agency came when the K.C. Chiefs signed former Chicago Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long. Long, a former Pro Bowler at both guard and tackle, came out of retirement in somewhat of a surprise move, as he had only been retired for one year after playing 4 games for the Bears in 2019.

Long immediately had multiple suitors, including the Las Vegas Raiders and Chiefs—both of which got visits. Long visited Kansas City shortly after visiting Las Vegas and eventually signed with the Chiefs for a very fair price with a contract that could pay Long up to $5 million. But what does the structure and length of Long’s contract tell us about the team’s expectations for him moving forward?

While the Long signing was a great low-risk. high-reward pickup, we have no idea what kind of shape he’s in. Before diving deeper into that, let’s take a look at his contract.

According to Over the Cap, Long’s contract includes a base salary of just $1.1 million along with a few bonuses which comes out to a $1.4 million cap hit. The rest of Long’s contract is $3.5 million dollars in reachable incentives. We don’t know what exactly those incentives entail, but all you have to do is look at Long’s injury history and the fact that he just took a year off from the game. It’s pretty clear that Long’s contract is a “you play, we pay” type of deal.

What does the length and total amount of Kyle Long’s contract tell us?

Many have theorized about where Long might play on the line, and have thrown around the idea that Long may start at either guard or tackle. Personally, I don’t see it. Long hasn’t played more than 10 games since 2015 and is now in is thirties with an extensive injury history. Expecting him to be your default starter is a bit of a stretch; it would quite honestly be poor decision making by the Chiefs if that is the case.

On the other hand, that is why Long’s contract is so incentivized. If he proves himself as a starting-caliber lineman midway through the season and shows no signs of breaking down, then maybe he does grow into the starter role and earn his full contract. That is certainly possible.

I also don’t see Long playing any tackle. Yes, he did play tackle in 2015 and earned a trip to the Pro Bow, but that was six years ago. He only played right tackle for that one year and the Chiefs already seem to have a decent situation at right tackle with holdover rookie Lucas Niang and veteran Mike Remmers. Besides, Long doesn’t appear to be at the playing weight that the Chiefs would want in their left tackle, and banking on Long to patch the hole at left tackle just once again seems irresponsible for reasons already stated.

Realistically, I think fans should expect Long to be a rotational guard who will provide depth and competition on the interior. You have to keep in mind that the Chiefs still have Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Joe Thuney, and Andrew Wylie, who is still more of a known commodity than Long. Following that, many might question why the Chiefs would even sign Long in the first place. Honestly, I don’t even think the Chiefs really expected to sign Long, especially given they were second on his visit list, but since he fell into their laps, they weren’t going to turn it down. I mean, why not sign him at that point?

I’ve seen questions everywhere about why the Chiefs have so many guards and interior lineman and what they’re going to do with all of them. They don’t necessarily have to do anything with anyone, actually. It’s literally just depth. Last year the Chiefs lost 4 starters along their offensive line from the beginning of the year. This time if that happens again, they’ll still have a formidable unit with all the bodies they’ve brought in.

At the end of the day, Long’s expectations shouldn’t be super high, but there is some reason to think he could see major snaps. That’s why the Chiefs left money on the table for Long in incentives. It all just comes down to what kind of shape he is in. If he looks like early 2010’s Kyle Long after taking the year off to recover then that’s great. If not, then you still aren’t losing out all that much because Long’s guaranteed money is very little.

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