The Kansas City Chiefs have the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday when the 2013 NFL draft gets underway, but the situation with left tackle Branden Albert is still unresolved. While Albert may not impact the Chiefs’ draft plans, an inability to trade him might present an interesting catch-22.
If the Chiefs select a left tackle with the first pick, they would have two left tackles on the roster. One of them would be paid $9.8 million guaranteed in 2013 and the other would be the No. 1 overall pick. Realistically, the Chiefs would have to trade Albert or play their top pick at right tackle. Albert’s long-term earning potential would take a hit if he agreed to move to the right side.
The Miami Dolphins were the only team to receive permission to negotiate with Albert’s agent, but Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reported that a deal is only going to happen if he lowers his demands significantly. It is widely believed the Chiefs would get a second-round draft pick if the Dolphins and Albert could come to an agreement.
Things could change during the draft, but there are currently very few teams with the cap space to absorb Albert’s franchise tag. According to overthecap.com, only nine teams currently have the cap space to absorb $9.8 million, which means a long-term contract will probably have to be pounded out before any other team will be able to land Albert.
Per Cole’s report, Albert wants a contract in the $8-9 million per year range. Of the teams with the cap space to take on Albert’s contract during the draft or extend him at his asking price, very few of them are in need of a left tackle or not in a position to draft one.
Teams may want Albert to take and pass a physical before a trade is finalized because of questions about his back. Although obstacles can be cleared once the draft starts, the Chiefs are facing a very real possibility that they will have to keep Albert on the roster, which would mean being stuck with two left tackles.
The Chiefs could always trade Albert for future draft picks after the draft, but the bigger issue is that they would not be able to recoup the second-round pick they traded to get Alex Smith this season. At this point, there isn’t a huge market for Albert.
The Chiefs are facing the realistic possibility of turning a franchise left tackle, the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 34 overall pick into a franchise left tackle, Alex Smith and a future second-round pick. That’s surprisingly little bang for the buck and may highlight one of the weaknesses of drafting the best player available regardless of team need.
If every team stuck to the strategy of drafting the best player available, there should be teams with multiple good players at the same exact position, but that’s rarely the case. There is a precedent set for this kind of move, and one with which general manager John Dorsey is familiar. The Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in the first round when Brett Favre still had a couple of good years left.
The Packers accepted the fact that they were using extra resources for a player who wouldn’t see the field for a few years. Unfortunately, this kind of logic doesn’t work as well when you are talking about the No. 1 overall pick and a tackle that is expected to play immediately.
It’s tough to feel bad for the Chiefs, because the problem will be the product of their own decisions. It’s also not necessarily a bad thing to have two good players just because they play the same spot. While the situation may be less than ideal if the Chiefs can’t trade Albert, the risk of franchising him was worth the reward.
You can certainly understand the thought process that went into placing the franchise tag on Albert with so many teams desperate for a left tackle. The Chiefs obviously believed they could get a draft pick for Albert, and all signs continue to point to him playing elsewhere next season, but the market appears lukewarm for his services.