The Kansas City Chiefs, who have gone from negative $22 million in salary cap space to $13 million in spending power in a matter of days — thanks in part to cutting Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz — are in hot pursuit of upgrades along the offensive line.
With the two-day free agent “legal tampering” period officially starting on Monday, the AFC champions are facing some familiar competition for the services of a three-time Pro Bowl guard, courtesy of the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders.
According to ESPN insider Adam Schefter, the recently unretired Kyle Long is expected to pay a visit to Kansas City to meet in person with Chiefs brass sometime this week. First, however, Long will visit with the Raiders on Monday, as confirmed by The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore.
Howie Long’s ties to the Raiders organization could give the Chiefs’ AFC West foes a leg up in the race to sign the coveted free agent blocker, however, the quicker path to a Super Bowl ring likely runs through Kansas City. Long has just one career playoff game on his résumé, a one-point NFC Wild Card loss in 2018-19.
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Long Ended His 1-Year Retirement Last Week
After taking a year-long break from the NFL, the 32-year-old Long is set to return to the gridiron in 2021. The news was first reported on March 9 by Macon Gunter, co-host of Green Light with Chris Long, Long’s two-time Super Bowl champion older brother.
Kyle later “formally” confirmed the news by retweeting a confirmation tweet by Chris.
A first-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2013, Long quickly emerged as one of the league’s most promising young interior lineman after being selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons. From there on out, injuries began to take their toll on the former Oregon Duck. From 2016-19, Long started just 29 of a possible 64 regular season games and no more than 10 in a single season during that span.
The culprit? A lengthy injury history including:
After being placed on season-ending injured reserve in November 2016, Long’s minor ankle surgery resulted in the 6-foot-6 guard losing more than 40 pounds (down to 265 pounds at his lowest) after struggling with medication due to complications from the procedure. He ultimately bounced back to 310 pounds, which is just five pounds short of his current weight, as reported by Macon and confirmed by NFL insider Adam Kaplan.
Chiefs O-Line Will Look Much Different Next Season
Given his current weight, previous pedigree and strategic targeting of two teams in need of interior offensive line help, Long is presumably returning for a chance at a starting guard gig. While healthy now, the seven-year veteran still poses a significant injury risk and should come on a relatively budget-friendly deal should his medicals check out.
For the Chiefs, the potential addition of Long is curious considering age and injury were two of the driving factors in the release of the team’s two longtime starting tackles last week. It could also shed some light on the plans for impending free agent and All-Pro guard Kelechi Osemele, who on Saturday showed some impressive progress in his return from torn tendons in both knees last season.
With starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif returning from his 2020 opt out to serve on the frontlines battling COVID-19, that leaves one starting guard spot up for grabs, with Nick Allegretti, Andrew Wylie and Yasir Durant as current depth options.
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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!