Laurent Duvernay-Tardif's extension making more sense for Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The contract extension the Kansas City Chiefs gave to guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif two weeks ago, before the start of free agency, makes more sense now than it did at the time.

The Chiefs signed Duvernay-Tardif, a two-year starter but one who was benched for a stretch of a few games in 2015, for five years and about $41 million. Slightly more than $8 million per year seemed to be a lot of money for a player ranked by Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s 40th-best guard last season.

Now it looks more like a bargain. The top free-agent guards this year all received more than Duvernay-Tardif. Cleveland’s Kevin Zeitler got $12 million on average and the Browns’ other guard, Joel Bitonio, plus Denver’s Ronald Leary, New Orleans’ Larry Warford and Detroit’s T.J. Lang all got at least $9 million per year.

It’s no wonder the Chiefs were eager to extend Duvernay-Tardif’s contract before free agency started and before the guard market exploded, even it was a year before he was to become an unrestricted free agent.

Duvernay-Tardif isn’t in the class of this year’s top free agents at his position, according to Pro Football Focus. Those five players were all ranked by PFF to be in the top 21 guards.

Duvernay-Tardif may never become as good a player as those other five guards, but the Chiefs think there’s a significant chance he could and they may be right. He’s come a long way since joining the Chiefs as a sixth-round draft pick in 2014.

The Montreal native in his first experience with the American version of football as a rookie was so raw, he didn’t play in a game despite being on the Chiefs’ 53-player roster all season. But he improved quickly, to the point in 2015 where he started most of the games and to the point last year when he became a dependable if not spectacular player.

“Laurent has grown significantly in his three years as a professional,” general manager John Dorsey said after the Chiefs signed Duvernay-Tardif. “He brings a lot of mental and physical toughness to the position, and last season he was able to become a key contributor to our offense. Laurent has a bright future here.”

Duvernay-Tardif is only 26 and, as Dorsey seemed to suggest, has plenty of room to grow. That’s what the Chiefs were betting on when they signed him to the contract extension and suddenly it doesn’t look like a bad wager.