What's Next: Offensive Line

Probably the most pressing issue for the Kansas City Chiefs this off season is the offensive line. Although the Chiefs have had one of the NFL's finest units over the last several seasons, there are problems that will need to be addressed if the Chiefs want to keep their place among the NFL's elite.

The biggest issue is Hall of Fame lock offensive guard Will Shields. Shields may retire this off-season if he feels his body can't continue to withstand the rigors of the NFL schedule. Shields has manned the right guard position for the Chiefs for over a decade, each year adding to his legacy as one the NFL's greatest linemen ever.

Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards has asked Shields to stay, but Shields has said several times that he won't return if he can't continue to play at his usual high level. If Shields does leave, there will be a huge hole on the offensive line. If Shields stays, the Chiefs should still pay special attention to drafting his replacement. As we saw with Roaf last season, reliable backups are critical in the Kansas City offense.

Tackle Willie Roaf will probably remain with the team, but the team will need an insurance policy in case Roaf goes down at point in the season. Roaf is easily the most valuable member of the offensive line—not just because he protects the quarterback's blind side, but because he does it so well. Last season, Roaf missed six games, and the drop off from Roaf to reserve Jordan Black was painfully obvious. The Chiefs may continue to wait for Black to develop, but they will long look at the depth at the left tackle position.

The other three starters, Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters, center Casey Wiegmann, and versatile right tackle John Welbourn, round out a starting unit that gives up few sacks and run blocks aggressively. As solid as the starting unit is, the Chiefs will probably look to add better depth to the offensive line. Reserves Black, Bober and Will Svitek are developing, but will need more time, and the Chiefs are reaching the point where they simply don't have the luxury of time anymore.

The top offensive line talent will likely be gone by the time Chiefs get to select with the 20th pick in the draft, so look for the Chiefs to at least explore options in free agency. Eagles right tackle John Runyan will be a free agent this off-season, and would allow current right tackle John Welbourn to move over to right guard if Shields leaves. Runyan has 10 seasons of experience against some the best pass rushers in the NFL, and his durability and toughness would be a welcome addition to the offensive line.

Seattle Seahawks guard Steve Hutchinson would be a great addition to the Chiefs offensive line. Acquiring Hutchinson would give the Chiefs the best pair of guards in the NFL. Hutchinson is athletic, strong and fast. He uses his hands and moves his feet as well as any other guard in football. The Seahawks could franchise Hutchinson, but with tackle Walter Jones' salary and with Shaun Alexander being a free agent, Hutchinson may prove too expensive for the Seahawks to retain.


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