The Chiefs’ trade for their new left tackle was made possible by their strategy in free agency.
Less than two hours after Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach stepped away from his Friday afternoon press conference, he finalized the acquisition of the organization’s next franchise left tackle.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Chiefs had traded their 2021 first-round pick, a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick and a 2022 fifth-rounder for the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. — while also receiving a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 sixth-round selection.
With that news obviously on Veach’s mind during his presser, he held as strong a poker face as he could.
“There have been some names floating around, and we’ll continue to have dialogue,” Veach told reporters. “I’d say things aren’t quite there yet, but there’s a lot of time between now and next Thursday… We have a couple things on our radar, but nothing where we’re ready to move in any direction. We can assess whether this move would be a better alternative than staying put, moving up or moving down. It’s been quieter than most years, but like every year, it’ll pick up with a few days left before the draft.”
It picked up quickly, apparently. Brown was the biggest trade target that had been publicized around the league, and the Chiefs secured him despite being a rival AFC contender to the Ravens. Either the Chiefs were the only serious inquirer, or they offered a substantial amount more than any other team.
He’ll assumedly be slotted in at left tackle based upon his expressed refusal to continue playing right tackle for Baltimore. That lines up with how the Chiefs have tried to address their line this offseason: Veach attempted to sign San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams but missed out.
Instead of trying to patch that hole with any other free agent left tackle, Veach held tight on wanting an upper-tier player at that position. It’s why they were able to be in a position to trade for Brown — a two-time Pro Bowler that turns 25 in a few weeks.
“Trent was a guy that we thought would have really helped us on that left side,” Veach said. “We weren’t able to get that done, but after Trent, it was our responsibility to be disciplined. We felt like we would rather go into this draft process; some of the alternatives out there just didn’t make sense for us… We didn’t want to sign someone just to sign someone, we have some players there on our roster currently with some ability. That in combination with the draft coming up, it was just important for us to stay disciplined so that if other things come available, we would be able to execute those.”
Veach mentioned defensive tackle Jarran Reed as a benefit to staying disciplined; they wouldn’t have been able to acquire him if they prematurely signed a free-agent tackle.
He’s had his eyes on Reed for more than just this offseason.
“Reed was a guy that — when he was coming out a few years ago — we had rated as the best run defender in his draft class (in 2016),” Veach revealed. “He’s really developed into a quality pass-rusher too. Now when we have Jarran and Chris [Jones] inside on third down, it’s going to be extremely advantageous for us. Now we can have some flexibility with kicking Jones out to defensive end, certainly Derrick Nnadi in there can help on base downs. We just thought the value was so good, and Reed is such a good player.”
Reed was a player on their radar, but not to the extent that former New England Patriots left guard Joe Thuney was. They immediately signed Thuney on the opening day of free agency, and that move looks even better now with Brown coming into the mix.
“[Thuney] was certainly a priority for us,” Veach declared. “Right off the bat, we wanted to address the offensive line. Thuney and Trent Williams were two names that made sense for us, and we were able to knock out Joe right off the bat. He’s one of the better interior linemen in the NFL. His ability to play either guard position or center at a pro bowl level was enticing to us… He was kind of a no-brainer for us.”
Like head coach Andy Reid did earlier this week, Veach mentioned Thuney as a candidate to play center. He played two full games at center in 2020 and would be a tremendous upgrade over former Chiefs center Austin Reiter.
He’d also be an upgrade over another free agent signing: former Los Angeles Rams center Austin Blythe. When asked about him, Veach emphasized an important word early on in his answer.
“Austin Blythe was a guy that started a lot of games for LA, and we always want to place an emphasis on depth with our roster. Now you have the ability — depending on what we do in the draft or where we go forward with the tackle position — where Thuney can play left or right guard; having Austin allows him to do that. Thuney can play center, depending on how the draft goes with our interior play.”
With all these new faces in the offensive line room, it’s difficult to determine what a starting unit would look like right now. There are six or seven names that are in the mix to fill one of the five slots. However, the two names we know will be in there are Thuney and Brown — the Chiefs’ two most important acquisitions this offseason.
Brown may not have been Plan A, but he represents a worthwhile Plan B.
If Veach had panicked and signed another veteran offensive tackle to fill that spot, he may have not been as willing to make this trade — and also would have missed out on other signings they’ve made. Instead, he remained disciplined to their plan and secured a top-tier pass protector that should be guarding quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ blindside for the true prime of his career.