But in 2006 the line was in the midst of a transition that cost this team the offensive balance it enjoyed the last five seasons. With an emphasis on the running game as the blueprint for the Chiefs offense in 2007, Kansas City has to revamp what has suddenly become an aging line.
Outside of this sentence, nowhere in this article will you read the name "Willie Roaf." He completely sandbagged his teammates by walking out on them at zero hour. He led the charge for Will Shields to return for another season but he left the game and the Chiefs never really recovered from his absence - now it's time to move on.
If the Chiefs want to enjoy any success on offense next year, provided to this point they've settled the quarterback situation and that Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzalez both have fat new contracts, then the next order of business is to reshape the offensive line so it fits the personality of head coach Herm Edwards and his play caller, Mike Solari. But more importantly, it has to fit the available talent.
That is where the problem currently rests. This offensive line is in bad shape. It'll take some cap dollars and shrewd moves in free agency and the draft to restore it to one of the best in the game. The good news is that it can be fixed and it can be done in one offseason.
So let's start left to right.
Left Tackle- Jordan Black played about as well as anyone could have expected considering he finally stuck to one position, but he's not the long term answer. The Chiefs don't really have a proven commodity at left tackle. Will Svitek could be the answer but he's a converted defensive end and might not be ready for the everyday challenge of the left side. Maybe he's a fit for the right tackle spot.
For now, this starting spot will have to come from free agency or the draft. Fortunately the Chiefs have some cap room. The best free agent available will be Arizona Cardinals left tackle Leonard Davis who, barring a franchise tag, will hit the open market come March. You can say what you want about his average play since entering the league four years ago from the University of Texas, but he's a beast. The Chiefs need to send the Hunt family Jet to pick him up and stash him somewhere until the two sides can work out a contract. It'll be expensive but he could make everyone forget about you know who.
Left Guard - Brian Waters. This position isn't an issue. Waters is without a doubt the best guard in the NFL.
Center - Casey Wiegmann has been an outstanding center in this league for 11 seasons. He made everyone forget about Tim Grunhard the last six seasons, but the former Iowa Hawkeye might not be the best fit to center the Chiefs power running game. Throughout the season Wiegmann struggled against 3-4 defenses and that bogged down the Chiefs running and passing game.
Fortunately, the draft has a plethora of centers who could be available in the second or third round. According to our own Draft Guru, Mike Campbell, the best candidate to replace Wiegmann could be Clemson's Dustin Fry. He's 320 pounds of pure athlete and attitude. But he's not the only option - the Chiefs have high hopes for Rudy Niswanger, who weighs about 30 pounds more than Wiegmann. He's given the Chiefs hope that he can play center in 2007.
Right Guard With Will Shields still weeks away from making a decision to return for yet another All-Pro season, we have to assume for the moment that he'll call it a career. If not, then he can play one more year, but I wouldn't push it much past that. The Chiefs really don't have that many options at right guard but they have a couple of candidates. One of them is last years sixth-round pick, Tre Stallings from Ole Miss. He was very impressive in mini camp last year and of all the draft picks seemed to be at ease in his new surroundings. He has talent and I think he can fill in for Shields.
The only other option is John Welbourn, who played right tackle this season after serving his five-game suspension. But right now I'm not sure the Chiefs will bring him back. It seems to me like his heart really isn't in the game anymore.
Right Tackle - This is where the Chiefs must upgrade. They really haven't been able to solve this spot since John Tait defected to the Chicago Bears three years ago. The Chiefs have two options on the roster, one of them the aforementioned Will Svitek. The other is former Seattle Seahawks tackle Chris Terry.
The Chiefs signed Terry last October after he served his suspension and of all the offensive linemen on the roster he has the most experience at the tackle position. He started over 80 games for Seattle. If he can get back into football shape he could compete for the starting spot. He's also versatile enough that he could play left tackle, and that's a good problem for the Chiefs to have heading into the offseason.
Other than that the Chiefs really don't have much to work with. Kyle Turley couldn't make it through the entire season but could stay if the team doesn't keep tight end Jason Dunn.
Like I said earlier, the draft has plenty of talent that will stretch into the second day. It'll be up to the Chiefs scouting department to find a few gems in the later rounds.
For me, this is an area the Chiefs can ill afford to gamble with. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos have better lines at the moment and if Kansas City is serious about winning a division title in 2007, they need to be aggressive, smart and lucky.
Tomorrow: Free Jerry Porter
Move #4 – Repair the Offensive Line
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