After forgoing a chance to re-sign with the New England Patriots, Joe Thuney opted to sign a five-year, $80 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs on March 18, 2021. The Patriots took him with the 78th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and he went on to win Super Bowls LI and LIII as a starting guard. He was also a second-team All-Pro in 2019.
At the time of the signing, the Chiefs made Thuney the highest-paid guard in the NFL at an average annual value (AAV) of $16 million. The AAV was then tied by Joel Bitonio last November and beaten by Brandon Scherff this past March.
Given that the Chiefs gave him that amount of money, and with him playing left guard, it was thought by some to be a long shot that he would be worth the contract. Due to backloading the contract and a base salary restructure this offseason, his 2021 and 2022 cap hits will be $4.5 million and $8.151 million, respectively, but $22.116 million in 2023, and $22.616 million in both 2024 and 2025, according to Over The Cap.
After signing with the Kansas City Chiefs in March, will Joe Thuney play at an elite level again in 2022 as he did in 2021?
Even though the contract is going to get expensive for the Chiefs starting in 2023, it may not be a huge detriment to the team, as long as Thuney can play at the elite level he did in 2021. To me, it’s manageable to overpay a player who’s playing elite than overpay a player who’s playing at an average level.
The contract may have been a risk but there is little doubt that the Chiefs nailed the Joe Thuney signing. He was everything they could have hoped for when they brought him. He deserved to be a pro bowler and possibly even an all-pro as well. In a recent 2021 free agent signing grades article, I gave the Thuney signing an A. The only reason it wasn’t an A+ was that the Chiefs paid him a top-of-the-market contract.
Joe Thuney’s 2021 season was truly the best of his NFL career. He was always a very good guard in New England but he stepped up his play in his first season with the Kansas City Chiefs. According to Pro Football Focus ($), Thuney recorded an 81.2 overall grade, including a 90.5 pass-blocking grade (with 90.0 considered “elite”), the best among all offensive linemen in the NFL.
Chiefs fans have little reason to believe that Joe Thuney will take a significant step back this season. Marshal Yanda, who in all likelihood will be in the Hall of Fame in a couple of years, played at an elite level through his age-35 season. Thuney is entering his age-30 season this year, so it isn’t unrealistic to assume that he has 3-4 elite seasons left in the tank. The Chiefs seem to agree since the recent restructure more or less fully guaranteed that Thuney will be in Kansas City through 2023, but most likely through 2024.
It is possible that Thuney has peaked and his play takes a dip this season with him turning 30 this November, but with no recent major injury, outside of a broken hand, I wouldn’t bet on it. I expect him to have a similar season to last year and possibly even better since he will have stronger chemistry with fellow starting linemen. He was one of the reasons why the interior of the Chiefs’ offensive line last season was among the best in the NFL.
Do you think Joe Thuney can repeat his success this season? Do you believe that he’ll take a step back? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@StrozinskyLucas).