Trey Smith of Tennessee readies himself for the NCAA Senior Bowl college football game in Mobile, … [+]
The left side of the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line is set.
The Chiefs traded a first-round pick to acquire left tackle Orlando Brown and paid Joe Thuney a five-year, 80-million contract to land their starter at left guard. (Thuney’s $16 million average means he’s currently the second highest paid guard in the NFL.)
The right guard position, though, is very much up for grabs.
One of the main candidates to start there had been Kyle Long. Kansas City signed the three-time Pro Bowler to a one-year deal.
But Long didn’t play last year and played in only four games the year before that. Then on Wednesday he suffered a knee injury.
“It doesn’t look like it’s ligaments, but we’ll see,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “(There’s a chance) he has to have surgery on it.”
Though the severity of it was not revealed, Long’s injury could make it more likely that Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who was the starter at right guard during Super Bowl LIV, ends up as the starter at right guard again this year.
Like Long, however, Duvernay-Tardif did not play in 2020. (The McGill University medical school graduate opted out so he could help in the fight against Covid-19.)
Though Reid said Duvernay-Tardif will be at minicamp, he hasn’t been seen at organized team activities (OTAs) so far.
The absences of those veteran players may help Trey Smith. The rookie has been impressive at OTAs — with the caveat that the practices don’t feature pads or much of a running game, making it a bit harder to evaluate offensive linemen.
Nonetheless, Thuney, one of the entrenched starters, not only noted how diligent Smith has been with his playbook, but also praised his physical skills.
“Trey works really, really hard,” Thuney said. “He’s a strong guy … He’s explosive.”
Smith, who watched Long while growing up, could represent one of the better values in the NFL.
Because he slipped to the sixth round (226th pick overall), his slotted salary is a four-year, $3.6 million deal. The Chiefs’ final pick in the 2021 draft will earn a base salary of just $660,000 this year, and his cap hit will be just more than $692,000.
The reason the 6-6, 335-pound Smith fell in the draft is he because he missed time during both his freshmen and sophomore campaigns due to blood clots in his lungs.
Smith, however, went on to start 23 games his next two seasons at Tennessee, and the Chiefs doctors cleared him.
To take his mind off of waiting to hear his name called, Smith played Rocket League and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare during the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, it was a grueling experience and one that might inspire him.
“It’s motivation,” he said.
Smith will need that extra edge if he wants to carve out playing time at right guard.
The Chiefs have added eight new offensive linemen this offseason. That number includes Lucas Niang and Duvernay-Tardif, who both opted out of the 2020 season.
In addition to Duvernay-Tardif and Long, Nick Allegretti, Austin Blythe and Andrew Wylie also have started NFL games at guard.
“The offensive line room is a great room,” Thuney said. “It’s a nice combination of old and young.”
Smith and Creed Humphrey are the two drafted rookies in that room.
Dropping to the Chiefs in the sixth round may have seemed unlikely for a two-time, first-team, All-SEC recipient. But Smith is at peace with it.
“God has an ultimate plan for me and my life,” Smith said. “I’m at the best place I could actually be at.”
More specifically, that place could be manning the right guard position — sooner rather than later.