The Kansas City Chiefs' relentless effort to remake their offensive line was one of the major storylines of the offseason, as they added a total of 10 new players (including returning opt-outs) to their offensive line room through free agency, the trade market and the draft.
Six of those additions can primarily be considered interior linemen (either guard or center), joining four returning players to round out the Chiefs' group of inside protectors up front. Those individuals range from marquee free agent signee Joe Thuney to fellow guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who is returning to Kansas City this season after opting out of the 2020 campaign. The group also includes developmental players such as Darryl Williams and Yasir Durant - who each joined the Chiefs as undrafted free agents last year – along with recent draft picks Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith.
Those are just six of the 10 players who make up the interior of the Chiefs' offensive line heading into training camp, collectively forming a deep group with plenty of potential. Let's take a closer look at each of those individuals, breaking them down into centers and guards. It's important to remember that versatility is a defining characteristic of this offensive line, and many of these players have extensive experience at both guard and center. For the purpose of this series, however, we'll view them by how they've primarily been utilized recently.
For a look at the players who can primarily be considered offensive tackles heading into training camp, click here.
The Chiefs selected Humphrey with the No. 63 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after an illustrious career at the University of Oklahoma in which the 6-foot-5, 320-pound center tallied 37 starts and earned multiple All-America nods. He recorded 2,488 snaps in that time, allowing just two quarterback hits and a grand total of zero sacks during his career.
He was one of the top centers available in this year's class and will compete for the starting job during camp.
A five-year veteran, Blythe joined the Chiefs as a free agent on April 5 after spending time with the Indianapolis Colts (2016) and Los Angeles Rams (2017-20). He was a frequent contributor along the Rams' offensive line over the last several years, starting 47 of 48 possible games since 2018 while logging all of Los Angeles' offensive snaps in both 2019 and 2020.
Additionally, his 1,120 offensive snaps in 2020 ranked third among all centers, trailing only the Chargers' Dan Feeney (1,174) and the Eagles' Jason Kelce (1,126). The guy is as durable as they come.
He's also quite versatile and has extensive experience at guard if needed.
Williams was one of the better rookie free agents remaining following the 2020 NFL Draft, earning praise from NFL.com Senior Analyst Gil Brandt as the No. 2 overall interior offensive lineman on the open market after allowing just two sacks across 1,031 pass-blocking snaps at Mississippi State. He was both a center and a guard during his time with the Bulldogs.
He went on to spend nearly the entire 2020 season on the Chiefs' practice squad before signing a Reserve/Futures contract in February.
One of the top free agents available this past offseason, Thuney has been equal parts reliable and brilliant during his five-year career. He's started all 80 games in that time, playing 500 more snaps at left guard than any other player since 2016. In fact, only Eagles' center Jason Kelce (5,252) has logged more total snaps up front than Thuney (5,222) over the last five seasons.
He's been consistently effective during his extensive time on the field, too, earning Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2019 while allowing just three sacks over the last three seasons.
Simply put, Thuney is one of the best guards in all of football.
Duvernay-Tardif is deservingly a household name nowadays due to his decision to opt out of the 2020 campaign in order to utilize his medical training in the battle against COVID-19. He was even recognized as the recipient of the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award this past weekend at the ESPYs. He's a man of many talents who certainly has a career in medicine ahead of him, but as Duvernay-Tardif returns to football this summer, it's worth remembering that he's a valuable player, too.
He's logged 57 starts during his six years with Kansas City, starting 14 games as recently as 2019. In 44 starts since 2016, Duvernay-Tardif has allowed a total of just five sacks.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Long retired following the 2019 season but returned to the field this past offseason for the opportunity to play for Kansas City. The former first round pick has 76 career starts to his name and was graded as the No. 10 pass-blocking guard in the league by Pro Football Focus as recently as 2018.
Long suffered an injury during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) but is working his way back to the field. His status will be something to watch as the season approaches.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing players in this group, Smith was an All-American at the University of Tennessee who many of the experts pegged as a potential steal at pick No. 226 in the 2021 NFL Draft. He was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs midway through his college career, but upon returning to action over the last two seasons, Smith allowed just one sack and four hits in 754 pass-blocking snaps.
Many experts viewed Smith as a possible third-round selection, including Dane Brugler from The Athletic, who ranked Smith as the No. 9 guard in this year's class.
He fell to Kansas City in the sixth round, however, adding a supremely talented and young piece to an already deep group of interior linemen.
Now entering his fourth season with Kansas City, Wylie was the recipient of the Mack Lee Hill Award following the 2018 campaign as the Chiefs' most outstanding first-year player. He appeared in 16 games that season (with 10 starts) and has been a familiar face along Kansas City's offensive line in the time since, starting 11 games in 2019 and 14 games in 2020.
All but one of his starts last season was at right guard, but he's also displayed the versatility to play tackle, too.
A returning member from last year's group, Allegretti appeared in all 16 games with nine starts (all at left guard) in 2020. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Allegretti was the Chiefs' top performer at guard last season in terms of run blocking and overall grade.
Originally a seventh-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Allegretti possesses the versatility to line up at either guard or center.
Much like Williams, Durant was among the top rookie free agents available following the 2020 NFL Draft. In fact, in the rankings by NFL.com Senior Analyst Gil Brandt referenced earlier, Durant checked in as the No. 1 offensive tackle prospect on the market.
A University of Missouri product, Durant made the Chiefs' roster out of training camp and went on to appear in 11 games (including 1 start). In addition to contributing on special teams, Durant made appearances at both right guard (55 snaps) and right tackle (36). His lone start, which took place in Week 17, was exclusively at guard.
The Bottom Line
The left side of the offensive line is essentially set, as Orlando Brown Jr. will take over at left tackle in 2021 while Thuney lines up at left guard. The remaining three spots are effectively up for grabs, however, as camp gets underway. The right guard position, in particular, could go any number of ways based on how the competition unfolds. Long's injury status will be something to keep an eye on, as will Duvernay-Tardif's progress as he returns to football after a year away from the game. Smith will also have every opportunity to show what he can do as a rookie, while Wylie, Allegretti and Durant have the benefit of experience in the Chiefs' offensive scheme. Even Blythe, who we profiled as a center above, tallied nearly 500 snaps at right guard as recently as 2019 and could see time at the position in camp.
Those battles will begin to be sorted out when the pads come on in St. Joseph, but the overall depth Kansas City possesses up front will likely prove more important than whatever the staring combination is in Week 1. The football season is a grind, and as we saw last year, injuries are inevitable. The beauty of this group is that the Chiefs are set to feature multiple players in reserve roles who would likely be starters elsewhere.
The Chiefs made a concerted effort to solidify their offensive line this offseason, and while the competition to make the initial starting five will be fun to watch, it's the abundance of depth up front that could pay dividends in the end.