What will the Chiefs do at left tackle next season if Orlando Brown Jr. isn’t available? Brown’s holdout will likely last into the preseason and could last even longer.
It’s the midnight hour for negotiations between the Chiefs and their franchise-tagged tackle, Orlando Brown Jr. The deadline for a long-term extension is July 15 and last we heard the two sides were not close on a contract extension.
Although the risk of Brown pulling a “Bell-esque” hold-out and missing the entire season seems extremely unlikely, Kansas City should still be prepared with backup options at left tackle. Without a long-term contract in place, Brown will certainly sit out for the duration of the preseason. A holdout could feasibly extend into Week One as well.
If the Chiefs are truly without last year’s starting left tackle for any period of time, the sky won’t be falling. The offensive line is in a much different place than it was a year ago when Brett Veach traded for Brown. Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith have the makings of anchors on the line for years to come. Add in the veteran, Joe Thuney, and even without Brown the Chiefs’ offensive line only has two question marks.
So who are the backup options if Brown is to miss game action as a result of his holdout?
Unproven Chiefs Could Earn A Shot In Brown’s Absence Next Year
The first option for the Chiefs is to simply rely on a couple of second-year and beyond options that already exist on the team’s roster. The first of these options would be Lucas Niang. Niang was drafted by the Chiefs in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft and has had anything but a typical NFL career to this point.
After holding out during the Covid-19 pandemic, Niang missed his entire rookie season. Last year saw Niang take the field for the first time in Kansas City. He started seven of the team’s first nine games but faced numerous injuries during the season. First, he suffered a shoulder injury that forced him to miss two games. Then in Week 9, he suffered an injury to his ribs that caused him to miss the next 7 games.
Niang returned in Week 17 as the Chiefs’ starting left tackle but suffered a torn patellar tendon in the game. With countless injuries, Niang is a severe question mark. The recovery time for his injury puts him in line to be ready for the start of the preseason. Even if healthy, it’s unclear whether Niang could lock down the left tackle position effectively.
Alongside Niang, Prince Tega Wanogho is aching for his shot in the NFL. Prince was formerly a sixth-round selection by the Eagles in the 2020 NFL Draft. He has spent most of his career on and off the practice squads of both the Eagles and Chiefs. He has played in just three games and has zero career starts to this point. In his college career, Wanogho started 32 games at left tackle for the Auburn Tigers but was not touted as a top-tier NFL Draft prospect.
Starting either of these options at left tackle would be a serious risk, especially when they’re protecting the blind side of the most expensive asset in the entire NFL.
A Chiefs Rookie Could See A Similar Impact As Last Year’s Rookies
Last year’s rookie class featured two offensive lineman that would prove to be crucial in the team’s drastic turnaround in the trenches. Both Trey Smith and Creed Humphrey went on to start all 17 games for Kansas City. Prior to the season, many were questioning who would start at the right guard position. Smith wasn’t even seen as the answer at the position until he showed it on the field.
Could the same transedence happen for Darian Kinnard? Kinnard was the team’s fifth-round selection in this year’s draft. Kinnard was a preseason All-American entering is sophomore season and went on to start every game that season at right tackle for the University of Kentucky.
Kinnard figures to compete for a starting right tackle position next season, which is where he played most in college. However, Kinnard’s NFL.com Draft Profile mentions that the future for him could include a move inside. “A transition inside should allow for more advantageous positioning as both a drive blocker and in pass protection.”
It’s worth noting that Smith’s Draft Profile last season mentioned he would take time to adjust to the NFL and would struggle. That clearly didn’t happen so it’s possible Kinnard could impact more than expected in his first season.
The Chiefs’ Easiest Answer At LT Might Make The Most Sense
Sometimes the easiest answer is the best one. Overthinking the answer at the left tackle position might not be worth it. The veteran along the Chiefs’ offensive line, Joe Thuney, has played guard most of his career. However, he’s also played at center and tackle in his NFL career.
Kansas City paid Thuney handsomely on a five-year, $80 million contract prior to last season. With one of the richest contracts in NFL history for a guard, it’s not out of the question for the Chiefs to look at transitioning Thuney to the tackle position in the absence of Orlando Brown Jr.
What would moving Thuney to the left side do to the rest of the offensive line? With Thuney at left tackle, Kansas City could look at Kinnard to play left guard. Nick Allegretti and Andrew Wylie could also factor into the equation at guard as well. Both players, of course, were key members of the 2020 AFC Champion Chiefs, although that team eventually lost in the Super Bowl after countless injuries along the offensive line.
With Thuney at left tackle, the Chiefs can rely on their core of Thuney, Smith, and Humphrey. Allegretti and Wylie could combine to fill the left guard position and allow Niang and Kinnard to compete for the open right tackle position.
One thing is clear; the Chiefs would love to have Orlando Brown Jr. on the field in Week One. However, if they don’t, all is not lost. There are options on the roster and the team will be just fine if they have to adjust.
Who would you like to see the Chiefs utilize at left tackle if they are without Orlando Brown Jr. for any period of time next season? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion.
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