After solidifying the offensive guard position with the free agent additions of Joe Thuney and Kyle Long in recent weeks, much of the focus on the Kansas City Chiefs frontline has shifted to the tackle and center positions. On Monday, the AFC champions found a solution for the latter, signing a previous Super Bowl starter who will presumably replace Austin Reiter under center.
First reported by Nate Taylor of The Athletic, the Chiefs have agreed to a one-year contract with Austin Blythe, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle has also reported that the deal includes $990,000 guaranteed salary, plus incentives.
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Blythe Offers Versatility & Experience up Front
Blythe, 28, has spent the last four seasons with the Rams, and the past three seasons as a starter. In 2020, the Iowa product shifted inside to start all 16 games at center after two years of holding down the right guard spot for Sean McVay’s unit, including a start in Super Bowl LIII in 2018-19.
He originally entered the league as a seventh-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2016 but was waived the following offseason and quickly claimed by Los Angeles. In total, the 6-foot-3, 298-pound former state champion wrestler has started 49 of 71 career games to date.
According to Pro Football Focus, Blythe’s 70.3 grade last season ranked ninth among qualified centers across the league. However, as Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star points out, his pass blocking grade (52.5) was noticeably worse than Reiter’s (78.3), though the Jared Goff-led Rams offense undoubtedly had an impact on those metrics.
Reiter, who started 28 games at center for the Chiefs over the last two seasons, remains an unrestricted free agent. According to The Kansas City Star’s Herbie Teope during the first day of free agency back on March 17, the 29-year-old was reported to have been considering an offer to re-sign with the Chiefs. Ultimately, nothing materialized despite the team’s interest in a reunion.
Does Blythe Signing Change the Chiefs’ Draft Plans?
With Blythe now the most likely option to start in front of Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City’s starting offensive line appears to be stabilized up the middle. His presence, however, is not necessarily a long-term solution. Instead, the Chiefs could still choose to spend a pick in next month’s NFL Draft on a rookie center, something general manager Brett Veach hasn’t done since his first season in 2013 with sixth-rounder Eric Kush.
Internally, the team also has 2019 seventh-rounder Nick Allegretti, who started nine games at guard last season, and practice squader Darryl Williams as potential competition for Blythe.
In terms of draft options, the Chiefs have already (and understandably) been linked to a handful of top-tier prospects, including Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, Alabama’s Landon Dickerson and Ohio State’s Josh Meyers.
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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!