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How the Chiefs should handle their offensive line in the offseason

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By: Caleb James

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at how Kansas City could improve their offensive front before the 2024 season.

Even though the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line is in pretty good shape following the 2023 season, they should still consider making some moves before the 2024 season.

Let’s consider some of them.

Extend center Creed Humphrey

While Kansas City will have a lot of decisions to make during free agency, extending Humphrey’s contract should be among the first orders of business. The former second-round pick has been one of the league’s best centers since he was acquired in 2021, playing a pivotal role in building one of the league’s best offensive lines.

With two two Pro Bowl selections in his first three seasons — not to mention a pair of Super Bowl rings — he is already one of the league’s most accomplished centers.

The former Oklahoma star still has a season remaining on his rookie contract, but the Chiefs would be wise to lock him into a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent a year from now. This is especially true because Humphrey’s 2024 salary has already been increased by $3.5 million through the Proven Performance Escalator built into the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players’ union, which increased Humphrey’s 2024 cap hit to $5.2 million.

General manager Brett Veach will want to figure out a way to spread this windfall over future seasons — while also maintaining continuity through the offensive interior. Left guard Joe Thuney’s contract will expire after 2025, while right tackle Jawaan Taylor’s deal will run through 2026. An extension for Humphrey would likely run through 2028, keeping at least three of the team’s offensive linemen together through the next two seasons.

Protecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains an important key. Locking Humphrey up for the long term should be a no-brainer for Kansas City.

Create competition at left tackle

Going into 2024, Kansas City once again finds itself with a question mark at left tackle.

In 2023, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith started 12 regular-season games (and all four playoff matchups), but is a free agent for the coming season. While his postseason play exceeded his inconsistent regular-season performances, it seems unlikely that Donovan — who has injury concerns and will be 31 years old in September — will return to the team.

This leaves second-year tackle Wanya Morris (who was a teammate of right guard Trey Smith at Tennessee before transferring to Oklahoma) as the leading in-house candidate to take the position. Morris started four games to end the Chiefs’ 2023 season — and stepped in for critical snaps against the Green Bay Packers when Smith was injured in Week 12.

While Morris often looked the part of a starting-caliber NFL left tackle, he also had some rookie moments during his four-game starting run. His Christmas Day game against the Las Vegas Raiders was particularly frustrating. Morris gave up several pressures, making his status as left tackle of the future open to question.

So the obvious solution — for both Morris and the team — is to create competition. While 2024’s crop of free-agent tackles may lack star power, it does have some players who could be interesting options for Kansas City.

The team could invest in an aging star like Tyron Smith, who is unlikely to return as the Dallas Cowboys’ left tackle. While he has shown a decline in play (and has also had some injury issues), he was solid in 2023. As a veteran looking for a ring, he would likely be a Day 1 starter — but will probably command a large contract.

The team could also make a move similar to what they did with Smith last year, bringing in a player like former Washington Commanders tackle Cornelius Lucas, who has solid starting experience and would not require an expensive contract.

But its best option would likely be to bring in a younger player with starting experience who could either beat out Morris for the starting job or serve as a valuable swing tackle for a few seasons. This is why the Chiefs should target Yosh Nijman. An undrafted free agent signed to the Packers in 2019, he’s had decent success in 22 starts at both left and right tackle. As a strong run blocker (and athletic second-level player) he would be a good fit for the Chiefs. While his pass blocking needs some work, he has just three real years of playing experience; the 28-year-old will have room to improve under offensive line coach Andy Heck.

The draft

The 2024 draft class feels a little weak at tackle. Kansas City should not rely upon it to find a Day 1 starter.

It’s true that tackles like Olu Fashanu, Joe Alt, JC Latham and Taliese Fuaga are likely to have long NFL careers — but the Chiefs would probably have to move up in the first round to acquire them. While this group is solid, they likely aren’t the kind of high-end talents that would justify such a move. Right now, Kansas City holds just six draft picks — so trading up would reduce resources needed for other positions of need, too.

Still, the team could roll the dice on intangibles and get a developmental tackle on Day 2 or Day 3. Players like Troy Fautanu, Tyler Guyton, Patrick Paul, Kingsley Sumataia and Javon Foster will be worth watching on draft weekend.

Originally posted on Arrowhead Pride