We need to talk about Jawaan Taylor. After signing an $80 million contract in March, Kansas City expected him to hold down the fort at right tackle, while the team still searched for an answer at left tackle. Unfortunately, he's been one of the biggest (if not the biggest) free-agent busts in the Brett Veach era.
Many people, including yours truly, proclaimed earlier in the season that patience was needed with Jawaan Taylor and that Chiefs fans shouldn't panic. It's time to admit that I was wrong.
For context, I wrote that piece immediately following Taylor's five-penalty meltdown against Jacksonville in Week 2. Although he hasn't averaged 3 penalties a game like he was through two games, he's still averaged almost one per game and leads the NFL (by a mile) in total penalties. I realize many Chiefs fans will complain that he's being picked on, but the fact of the matter is that he has been committing these penalties and they're accurately called.
To my defense, I also wrote "If these issues persist into November and December against teams like Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Cincinnati, then we can maybe hit the panic button", so I can't say that article aged that horribly.
It's not just the penalties alone that have made the Jawaan Taylor signing a disaster. It's also because he hasn't played well enough to justify them. L'Jarius Sneed is tied for the second-most penalized defensive back in the NFL (and tied for the fifth-most penalized player), but he's played at a high enough level where those calls are manageable. Taylor does not.
Taylor is a good, but not great, pass-protector who has been awful in run-blocking, which has never been a strength of his. According to Pro Football Focus ($), he ranks 82nd out of 90 qualified tackles in overall grade (49.1) and is tied for 38th in pass-blocking efficiency (96.5%). Both of those numbers are slight downgrades from where he was in 2022 with the Jaguars (59.5 and 98.2%).
For reference, Andrew Wylie, now with Washington, ranked 63rd in overall grade (61.6) and 56th in pass-blocking efficiency (96.1%) last year. The main difference between Wylie and Taylor is that the former signed for $8M/year and the latter $20M/year this past March. I'm not an expert, but I feel that it's fair to say that Wylie has been the better overall value. Not to rub salt into the wound, Taylor is PFF's lowest-graded tackle in run-blocking and is the second-lowest offensive lineman overall in that area.
To be fair to Brett Veach, no one could have predicted that Taylor would be this much of a disaster, but he has to accept that this move didn't work out. He's still an excellent general manager, but he needs to admit defeat with this move.
Breaking down the Chiefs' options with Jawaan Taylor
So what can the Chiefs possibly do this offseason with Jawaan Taylor? The answer to that question is a little complicated.
First, per Over The Cap, straight up releasing him would cost the Chiefs over $34M in dead money and would take away almost $9.5M in cap space. What about a trade? The numbers are a little friendlier, but what team will give up assets for an underperforming and vastly overpaid offensive tackle?
Here's what they could do. Like getting blood drawn at the doctor, it would be uncomfortable at the start. On March 17, $20M of Jawaan Taylor's 2025 salary becomes fully guaranteed, thus increasing his dead cap hits both in 2024 and 2025 in the case of a release. If they were to release him with a post-June 1 designation (prior to March 17), the dead money would drop from $34.175M to $24.725M. This would allow Taylor to re-enter free agency much earlier, making it more likely that he'll sign another lucrative contract, but would also prevent the Chiefs from swallowing an additional $20M in guarantees.
The downside of releasing him as a post-June 1 cut is that the Chiefs would see zero 2024 cap savings by doing so. They wouldn't lose cap space, although they wouldn't gain any either. They would also save over $15M in 2025 cap space and would also wipe his entire $24.725M 2026 cap hit off the books.
The reason they would do this is to save the $20M in real cash, which does matter, even to a team like the Chiefs. Once the $20M in 2025 becomes guaranteed, the cap ramifications of a pre/post-June 1 release are pretty much the exact same as in 2024, a pre-June 1 cut would lose them cap space and a post-June 1 cut wouldn't net them any savings. If the cap ramifications are the same, they might as well save the cash.
Based on the cap savings alone, if Taylor is a member of the Chiefs on March 17, 2024, he will very likely remain on the team for the 2025 season. Due to this guarantee, the Chiefs essentially have a two-year option they need to either exercise or decline by March 16.
We now know the answer of could they move on from Taylor, but will they? Probably not. I'm not sure the team would view it as smart business to cut a player and see no cap benefit, even if that player is a net negative for the team. The coaches may also view him as fixable and a full offseason to rehabilitate him may be what's best for the team.
One thing that may make it easier to release Taylor is the potential emergence of Wanya Morris at left tackle. If the Chiefs see enough from him for the remainder of this season to mark him down as the 2024 starting left tackle, that could make it easier for them to start fresh at right tackle.
Again, much to the chagrin of many Chiefs fans, expect to see Jawaan Taylor as the starting right tackle next season. Knowing the Chiefs, they'll likely bet on their ability to develop and keep him around for another couple of seasons.