KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Say this for the Kansas City Chiefs: When they see a weakness on their roster, they go all-in on fixing it.
The Chiefs couldn’t afford to overlook the mess their offensive line had become, not after the way quarterback Patrick Mahomes was harassed during last season’s Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Mahomes ran for a total of 497 yards before his passes or sacks during the Super Bowl, the most pre-throw or pre-sack yards by any quarterback in any game last season.
Kansas City hadn’t put many resources — free-agent dollars or premium draft picks — into its offensive line in recent years, and although the Chiefs patched up things remarkably well last season, that neglect showed against the Bucs at the worst possible time.
Friday’s trade with the Baltimore Ravens for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. completes their offseason overhaul of the offensive line. Kansas City will have five new starters from last year’s season opener. The team not only traded for Brown and signed free-agent linemen Joe Thuney, Kyle Long and Austin Blythe but also is expecting the return of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Lucas Niang.
Both opted out of last season and did not play in 2020.
Kansas City will sort positions and starters as the offseason and training camp unfold, except for Brown. A Pro Bowler in each of the past two seasons, Brown is the left tackle, a position the Chiefs had to get right before they could look at their efforts to transform their line as a success.
They tried earlier in the offseason to sign veteran tackle Trent Williams, who eventually re-signed with the San Francisco 49ers instead.
“Trent was a guy we thought would really have helped us on that left side, and we weren’t able to get that done,” Kansas City general manager Brett Veach said. “Right after that, it was our responsibility to be disciplined. Some of the alternatives out there just didn’t make sense for us. We didn’t want to sign someone just to sign someone.”
The miss with Williams worked out in a sense for the team. Veach said if the Chiefs had signed Williams, they wouldn’t have been able to afford to sign defensive tackle Jarran Reed
The effort with Williams indicated that Kansas City wouldn’t just be settling for any left tackle. It had free-agent options and could have used the first-round pick it used in the Brown trade on a different left tackle.
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The team liked none of those alternatives as much as Brown, who won’t turn 25 until next month. For this trade to work, the Chiefs need to sign Brown for the long term — he’s headed into the final year of his contract — but if they were able to load a hefty long-term offer for Williams before he declined, they’ll have the necessary money for Brown.
The offensive line renovation is reminiscent of what Kansas City was able to do with the defense in 2019. The Chiefs brought in a new defensive coaching staff and changed systems. They signed Tyrann Mathieu, traded for Frank Clark and in the season opener had six new starters from the previous season.
It took a few games before the transformation took hold, but by season’s end the Chiefs were playing well defensively. With a huge assist from their defense, they wound up winning the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years.
Kansas City may or may not win a Super Bowl next season. But one thing seems certain from this very early vantage point: If it doesn’t, the offensive line won’t be why not.