Branden Albert: Potential Second Round Trade Partners for the Kansas City Chiefs
According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the Kansas City Chiefs are set on trading starting left tackle Branden Albert and are willing to let him go for a high second round pick. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, that means their original demands are dropping.
The Chiefs franchise tagged Albert this off-season, but are expected to draft a top offensive tackle with the first overall pick in the draft. With that in mind, Albert made it clear this off-season that he wasn’t willing to swap over to the right-hand-side, most likely considering the damage it would do to his market value as a free agent next year.
Trading Albert appears to be the Chiefs’ only real option at this point.
Because of the way this situation has developed, the market for Albert is not going to be competitive. Teams already know that the Chiefs are locked into trading him and now they know that the price is dropping. However, whatever team agrees to a deal with the Chiefs will have to negotiate a new contract with Albert before the trade is made. That could be problematic because the offensive tackles who actually hit the free agent market this year were forced to settle for less money than they initially expected to get.
All those factors should drag out these negotiations for some time, but that doesn’t mean that the Chiefs won’t be able to trade Albert. In fact, there should be a number of teams looking his way.
The Dolphins lost their starting left tackle this off-season, Jake Long, to the St. Louis Rams and are not in position to draft one of the top three left tackles in the draft. That puts them in the unenviable position of having Jonathan Martin protecting Ryan Tannehill’s blindside. Martin struggled significantly as a right tackle during his rookie season, so swapping him over to the other side is not ideal.
With Jeff Ireland scrambling to save his job, the Dolphins have been reckless this off-season in their attempts to improve their roster. Blockbuster deals for Dannell Ellerbe and Mike Wallace have somewhat mortgaged the franchise’s future for the coming season, while Brent Grimes, Philip Wheeler, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller have arrived to immediately improve the team.
Under that philosophy, Ireland will have no issue giving up his team’s second round pick for a proven starter at a major position of need. The Dolphins hold the 11th pick of the second, or the 42nd overall. They are very unlikely to find a starting left tackle at that spot, despite the Buffalo Bills landing Cordy Glenn with the 41st pick last year.
The 42nd pick should be more than enough for the Chiefs, presuming they don’t get a better offer. From there, the Dolphins would only have to negotiate a new deal with Albert and they have over $8 million in available cap space to make that deal happen.
When the Arizona Cardinals picked up quarterback Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders, Bruce Arians signalled his intent to improve his team now with bold additions. Of course, the Cardinals were desperate for a quarterback, which led them to add not only Palmer but also Drew Stanton. Now that they have brought in Palmer, they need to give him better protection.
As bad as the Cardinals were at the quarterback position last year, they were arguably worse at left tackle. Levi Brown has never been a reliable player, but once he was injured for the season D’Anthony Batiste stepped in and was nothing more than an overpaid turnstile. Batiste is still a free agent at this point, while Brown is back, but you won’t find many people who are excited about it.
In order to make Bruce Arians’ vertical offense work, the Cardinals will need to protect their quarterback. Palmer is able to overcome some offensive line issues, but he can’t extend plays like Ben Roethlisberger did for Arians in Pittsburgh and Andrew Luck did for him in Indianapolis. Even in Oakland with the Raiders Palmer had the excellent Jared Veldheer watching his back and giving him some degree of comfort.
Albert is a massive upgrade for the Cardinals and could potentially improve more than one position on the line if Brown is able to plug in either at left guard or if he pushes Bobby Massie out of the other tackle spot. The Cardinals hold the sixth pick of the second round, 38th overall, and have over $9 million in cap space available for contract negotiations.
Jeff Backus had been the Detroit Lions’ starting left tackle for so long that the Lions may be tripped into thinking that replacing him will be easy. Finding tackles as durable and effective as Backus is not easy. Because the Lions lost their starting right tackle, Gosder Cherilus, in free agency this off-season also, they should be desperate for pass protectors who can keep Matthew Stafford upright.
Riley Reiff, who is better suited to right tackle, is currently sitting atop the Lions’ depth chart at left tackle. Reiff was the team’s first round draft pick last season and is only 24 years of age. Considering Jim Schwartz job would likely be under threat with another bad season, and their passing attack is a pivotal part of their success, the Lions would likely love to add a veteran starter in the form of Albert.
The one worry for the Lions if they were to add Albert is the philosophical transition from Kansas City to Detroit. The Lions were a pass-heavy offense last year. That shouldn’t change this year despite the addition of Reggie Bush in the backfield. In fact, Bush could push them to pass more as he is an outstanding receiving back. In Kasnas City, Albert has played on run-first teams every single season of his career.
Regardless of the numbers, Albert may not be capable of excelling at left tackle when teams are not considering the running-game as a threat.
With just over $6 million in cap space, the Lions may need to get a little bit creative to sign Albert and pay for their incoming draft class.
San Diego Chargers:
Should the teams at the top of the second round continue to overlook Albert, the Chiefs will be forced to drop their demands even further. That could lead them to the San Diego Chargers with the 15th pick of the second round, 45th overall. The Chargers set about revamping their offensive line this off-season, after new head coach Mike McCoy watched the unit handicap their offense the past two seasons. King Dunlap, Chad Rinehart and Rich Ohrnberger arrived and despite Dunlap being a very underrated tackle, he isn’t an ideal starting left tackle.
Currently, Dunlap is slated to start at left tackle with Jeromey Clary returning to be the right tackle again. Clary has been an ineffective right tackle for the past few years in San Diego, but the previous regime never replaced him. That was a staple of their downfall. If the Chargers can land Albert in a trade, then they would be able to slot him in at the starting left tackle spot, before flipping Dunlap from the left side to the right.
That would push Clary to the sideline and give Philip Rivers two bookend tackles worthy of protecting him. Ken Whisenhunt and Mike McCoy will look to build an offense around their veteran quarterback’s strengths. That is something Norv Turner failed to do in recent years. This would be a strong step in that direction and represent good value for the franchise in a trade.
The Chargers’ biggest issue is that they have less than $6 million in cap space available. The likelihood is that the Chargers’ brass could bring the proposal to Rivers to try and create some space.
You can follow Cian Fahey on twitter @Cianaf