KCCD Contributor: Sam Mitchell
In this post I will be breaking down the Chiefs upcoming free agents, their roles on the team, how strongly the Chiefs should pursue keeping them, and if they are let go, what the current backup situation is at the position.
We start this week with Chiefs Left Tackle, Branden Albert.
Albert is, in my opinion, by far the Chiefs’ most important upcoming free agent. Not only does Albert man one of the four most essential positions on a football team, as the left tackle, but he is also a player that has developed from a raw college Guard turned NFL Tackle, to one of the more efficient book ends in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus ranked Albert as the 18th best offensive tackle in the NFL out of 64 total OTs in the 2011 season, putting him firmly in the top third of NFL tackles. Albert is currently the 3rd ranked left tackled in the league thus far this season.
Think back, who was the last pass rusher that really had the upper hand over Branden Albert throughout an entire game? Albert has held his own extremely well the past two seasons against the league’s premier pass rushers. Albert held James Harrison, Clay Matthews, and Kamerion Wimbley to zero sacks in their four combined games against the Chiefs as well as holding Elvis Dumervil to .5 sacks in the team’s two contests against Denver.
Another especially impressive performance came against the man who was effectively traded for Albert, Jared Allen. Allen had two sacks in the game but one came when Allen was lined up at the Left End position (Barry Richardson’s side), with the other coming on a play where Albert provided solid protection until the play broke down and Cassel fled the pocket allowing Allen to pursue and make the play.
Branden Albert is a player the Chiefs cannot afford to let walk.
A young, consistent Left Tackle just entering his prime and growing comfortable with his position is a commodity that no team, especially not a team that will most likely be employing a young Quarterback next season, can afford to lose. Albert is far and away the best blocker on the offensive line as well as being a humble leader by example.
Albert has the foot quickness, kick step, bend, and length to handle speedy edge rushers, while also possessing the size, strength and base to handle more powerful ends and 5 techniques. Albert has also displayed a consistent ability to be an above average run blocking left tackle. He is technically sound in the run game to be a very good positional, seal, and wall off blocker. The former Virginia Cavalier rarely blows guys off the ball with strength, but in the zone blocking scheme that is not his job.
Branden Albert uses his hip quickness to perform reach blocks and seal the edge on outside runs, or turn the End outside and create a lane for inside runs. Albert has the athletic ability to reach the second level and the bend to fit and sustain on Linebackers and Safties in space. These skills also help him to be an effective screen blocker (something I am surprised we don’t see more of with the quick Offensive Line that we have).
Extending Albert should be the front office’s main priority as the season progresses.
The front office needs to push hard to lock Albert up during the season before he reaches the open market and becomes a hot commodity the way Brandon Carr did last offseason. In a league where tackles like Doug Free get signed to 4 year $32 million contracts (via Spotrac), someone will pay handsomely for a skilled tackle like Albert.
I do believe a deal will get done with Albert sometime before free agency starts. An appropriate deal for Albert would be something along the lines of 5 years, 35-45 million dollars. In theory, under this type of an agreement the chiefs would have a young starting five up front set up for years to come. Now we will still have to see more from Rodney Hudson, who was doing an adequate job before fracturing a bone in his leg, and Jeff Allen before we anoint either of them the long term answer, but that is clearly the organization’s plan.
Turn to page 2 for more on who could replace #76.