Holding The Keys: Offensive Tackle

Posted Mar 27, 2011

Barry Richardson is one of several players who helps mold the focus of Kansas City’s off-season strategy

From a sheer numbers perspective, we know that the Chiefs will be adding an offensive tackle this off-season. Past that, there’s plenty of debate surrounding the position.

How the Chiefs choose to improve depth at the position is one of the more interesting storylines of the off-season. Just three tackles are currently under contract for 2011 – starters Branden Albert and Barry Richardson, as well as converted defensive lineman Bobby Greenwood.

Before we go any further, curb the annual “does Albert move to right tackle next season” line of questioning for the time being. The potential of that happening isn’t necessarily far-fetched, but answering that question begins and ends with incumbent right tackle Barry Richardson.

In so many ways, Richardson holds the keys to the Chiefs approach in adding talent at offensive tackle.

Three years into his NFL career, Richardson finally saw regular playing time in 2010. In fact, Richardson was one of the best success stories on the team last season after starting all 16 games, plus a post-season game, at right tackle. He’s definitely come a long way since being cut following Todd Haley’s first training camp in 2009.

To say that Richardson’s 2010 season was “surprising” is probably a fair statement.

Ryan O’Callaghan looked in line to start the season at right tackle prior to suffering a mid-August groin injury. Richardson stepped up, never relinquished his new role as a starter and the Chiefs led the league in rushing while also drastically decreasing sacks totals from 2009.

Sure, Richardson was far from flawless in his first year as a starter. He led the team in penalties (9), penalty yards (63) and gave up 5.0 sacks, but he also exceeded any and all preseason expectations.  

Richardson was the type of player that Haley and Co. targeted throughout last off-season. For the Chiefs to be successful, third-year players had to elevate their game. Names like Jamaal Charles, Glenn Dorsey and Brandon Flowers highlight that list, but Richardson’s contributions ended up being just as important.

Overall, 2010 was a good year for Richardson.

“Barry is one of those two, three-year guys that I sat up here when the season ended and said you can’t just go to the grocery store and pick by everybody you want to fill every need you feel you have, some needs being greater than others, but this is a guy that falls into that group that I felt like developed,” Haley said several months ago.

Richardson played at a winning level last season, but was that level high enough for the Chiefs to push other positions of need into higher priority this off-season? The answer to that question should play out in front of us over the coming months.

Competition is coming. We’re all certain of that. Kansas City’s hand is forced. The team is in a position where they must add bodies at tackle. But what direction does the team take in filling out the depth chart?

Does competition come from a first-round draft pick, or a slew of undrafted free agents? Is tackle an area that the Chiefs will address in the draft’s middle rounds, or is a free agent acquisition in order?

If free agency is the option, are we looking at an addition like Ryan Lilja, where the new face becomes an immediate favorite to start?

With free agency on hold, prioritizing positional needs takes an even bigger stage this April. Richardson is one of several players who helps mold the focus of Kansas City’s off-season strategy. We’ll explore more of these roster situations throughout the week.

If the Chiefs select an offensive tackle in the first-round, Albert’s positioning along the offensive front becomes a hot topic throughout the summer. Until then, Richardson’s 2010 resume is the focus.

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