Trey Smith helps extend KC Chiefs’ championship window

Trey Smith’s talent, ceiling, and cap demands come together to help extend the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl window.

You cannot say enough about the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line. From up the creek without a paddle in 2020 to a party barge built to carry the offense in 2021, the upgrade in the Chiefs’ trenches over the past year was nothing short of remarkable. The totality of the unit’s identity shift could not have been possible without the addition of last year’s sixth-round pick Trey Smith.

The second of two full-time rookie starters uncovered in the 2021 draft—following center Creed Humphrey—Smith entered the league under unusual and unique circumstances. Diagnosed with blood clots after receiving second-team All-SEC, Freshman All-American, and SEC All-Freshman recognition for his first-year effort at the University of Tennessee, his apparent fast track to a first-round payday was derailed. The health concerns, however, only limited production in his sophomore season where he was sidelined by team doctors after seven starts at left tackle.

First-Team All-SEC honors were Smith’s again as both a junior and senior at Tennessee, but the residual effect of his diagnosis lingered until the back-end of day three in last year’s draft. He was overlooked time and again by all 32 NFL teams until Kansas City decided to take a shot on him in the sixth round with the 226th overall selection.

Being passed over 225 times was the bass line of Smith’s walkout music in his rookie year. Week after week the chip on his shoulder appeared to grow and fuel his path toward his emergence as one of the most ferocious maulers in the league.

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Smith’s apparent lack of interest in receiving praise is a good sign of what lies ahead. Boring media responses from unenthused athletes tend to be glossed over, but viewed through the right lens, the same comments can be quite exciting. Whenever asked about the success of his rookie campaign, or last year’s offensive line play in general, Smith consistently references what he and the group as a whole have to improve on. He views every day as an opportunity to fine-tune his craft, and as a selection to the Pro Football Writers All-Rookie team in 2021, continued improvement will lead to his inclusion in the Pro Bowl and All-Pro consideration.

Along with the consistency displayed on the field, and his voiced desire to get better, Smith adds incredible financial value to the offensive line. With Brett Veach resetting the offensive guard market by signing Joe Thuney to his monstrous $80 million contract, and Orlando Brown Jr.’s extension looming, Smith’s cap hits of less than a million dollars a year over the next three seasons significantly lessen the blow of deploying an offensive line riddled with perennial Pro Bowlers.

When he hits the free-agent market in 2025, his premium value will likely be the demand, but that is an obstacle to tackle when the time comes. As for now, Smith’s paycheck and contributions on the field play a huge part in extending the Chiefs’ championship window.