Without knowing the method to their madness, it’s difficult to justify the words and the actions of the Kansas City Chiefs when it comes to their offensive line. Here’s what coach Andy Reid said last year shortly after they drafted offensive tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall pick.
"You can’t have enough good offensive linemen," Reid said then. "You can’t win without offensive linemen. You can’t win without defensive linemen. That’s just the way the game works. You’ve got to be strong in those positions. I understand the importance of that. That’s what we need here."
That’s a fine philosophy. Championships have been won by teams that embraced it.
But the Chiefs are 31st among the NFL’s 32 teams in salary-cap spending on their offensive line. When it comes to cash spending, or money teams are doling out to offensive linemen this year alone, the Chiefs are 32nd and last. They're spending $7.9 million this year on their offensive linemen.
I wasn’t among those predicting gloom and doom for the Chiefs when they lost three offensive linemen to free agency. They've spent a lot of their draft picks in recent years building depth on their offensive line to better withstand this type of hit.
I also believe you get what you pay for and right now, at least, the Chiefs are paying very little for their linemen. Part of that is the result of going with younger players on the offensive line. Four of the five starters are in the contracts they signed as rookies. The other starting spot is up for grabs but could be given to a developmental player such as Rishaw Johnson, who is making the minimum salary.
Teams can’t spend lavishly at all positions. The Chiefs this year are spending much higher than the league average at wide receiver and, as we will see in a subsequent post, linebacker and defensive back.
If they’re going to do that, they have to spend less than the average at other positions. For the Chiefs, the offensive line positions are among them.
The only way Reid's words make sense in this context is if the Chiefs' continue to use a high pick or two each year on offensive linemen. That way, they can keep a supply of talented but lower-paid linemen and save money for other positions.
So don't sleep on the possibility of the Chiefs drafting an offensive lineman in an early or middle round this year. It makes sense from both need and financial perspectives.