The Super Bowl runner-up Kansas City Chiefs were expected to make a splash this offseason by revamping its battered offensive line. While the team has mostly delivered on that speculation, the plan hasn’t unfolded as many had anticipated even though plenty of big names have already been involved.
Beginning with the surprising releases of starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz on March 11, Kansas City’s frontline rehaul has so far included the additions of three new potential starters up the middle including prized left guard Joe Thuney, along with former Pro Bowler Kyle Long and Super Bowl starter Austin Blythe.
The Chiefs were also “in it until the end” on San Fransico 49ers Pro Bowl LT Trent Williams before he returned to the Bay Area on a six-year, $138 million megadeal last month, leaving K.C. with a gaping hole on Patrick Mahomes’ blindside heading into the NFL Draft.
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NFL Execs Not yet Sold on Chiefs’ Rebuilt Offensive Line
In a recent column for The Athletic, Mike Sando asked NFL evaluators and executives for their thoughts on how all 32 teams approached free agency, including major signings like Thuney. In the Chiefs’ case, the addition of the best available interior offensive lineman — while a major improvement — isn’t being viewed as a fix-all for the AFC champions heading into the 2021 season.
“You get as many good players as you can, but what’s available determines so much,” one evaluator told Sando. “I don’t know that I feel like, ‘Oh, wow, that fixes things to have Joe Thuney on the Chiefs.’”
The former New England Patriots stalwart, whom another scout described as a “consummate pro” and “lunchpail-type guy,” should immediately provide some stability at his natural left guard spot, where Kansas City leaned on a combination of Kelechi Osemele and later Nick Allegretti in 2020.
“I mean, they’ve got talent, there’s no question, and they’re going to win because (Patrick) Mahomes can extend plays and make unbelievable throws,” an anonymous executive said to Sando. “But if you get banged up, which is going to continue to happen with him if they don’t do a better job of protection, it affects you later in the season.”
Blythe Reveals Childhood Connection to Chiefs
Blythe, whose signing was made official on Monday, joins the Chiefs after spending the last four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. The 28-year-old Iowa native stayed close to home during his collegiate career, playing four years for the Iowa Hawkeyes after a redshirt season in 2011. However, during his introductory press conference on Monday, Blythe told reporters that he is technically a Missouri native.
“I actually was born in Kansas City,” Blythe said on April 5. “My parents moved up to Iowa shortly after I was born and then just continued to root for the Chiefs. So (I’m) kind of coming full circle here, being able to come play for the Chiefs. Obviously, I mentioned the team has been in a great spot, the last several years and I’m just really excited to get to work.”
Blythe is a strong candidate to replace unrestricted free agent Austin Reiter under center next season. The fifth-year veteran blocker transitioned to center for the Rams last season after spending the previous three seasons at right guard, including Los Angeles’ Super Bowl run in 2018. His 70.3 Pro Football Focus grade last season ranked ninth among qualified centers across the league.
Overall, Blythe has started 49-of-71 career games — 47 of which have come over the last three campaigns. His new deal spans just one year with a guaranteed $990,000 base salary.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!