After signing his franchise tag, Kansas City Chiefs‘ left tackle Branden Albert was promptly placed on the trading block by Andy Reid and John Dorsey.
With a résumé that includes being a first round pick and starting 71 games at left tackle since that day, Albert should be a highly-sought after prospect. As such, the Chiefs are expecting to recoup substantial compensation in return for his services. Having traded away their second round pick, and more, for quarterback Alex Smith, that is likely where the bidding will start.
Plenty of teams across the league should be more than willing to trade for a proven left tackle who will be 29 at the start of next season. Albert has proven that he can play the position to a high-level and should have at least three seasons left of his prime.
Determining the next chapter of his career will come down to means and need. Many teams will have the need for Albert, but not every team will have the means to acquire him. One of the teams who can fill both criteria is the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens’ offensive line played a pivotal role in their Super Bowl run last season. When left guard Jah Reid went out injured towards the end of the regular season, veteran Bryant McKinnie was brought back into the starting lineup. McKinnie replaced Michael Oher, who moved back to right tackle and pushed rookie Kelechi Osemele into the left guard position.
McKinnie performed very well back in the starting lineup, while Oher was much better as a right tackle than at left tackle. Osemele was as comfortable on the interior of the line as he had been on the outside. Considering all that, it’s no surprise that the Ravens are reportedly interested in re-signing McKinnie in free agency. However, McKinnie brings as many question marks as certainties.
He was initially slated to be a starter for the Ravens entering last off-season, but weight and fitness issues demoted him to a reserve role. McKinnie obviously overcame those issues, but that wasn’t the first time he has struggled with his health during his career. It was partially a reason for him being released from the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, while it doesn’t figure to get better now that he is set to turn 34 early on next season.
McKinnie will obviously be cheaper, but he is a much greater risk than Albert without the same potential.
If the Ravens could acquire Albert for a second and sixth round draft pick, they would still have six picks this season and would be giving up the last pick of the second round. The caliber of players that the Ravens could get with those picks could outweigh the value of signing Albert, but the probability is that they won’t get the same level of production this season or over the next three.
While Albert’s cap hit would also be much greater than any combination of draft picks this season as things currently stand, a new contract would change that. Ozzie Newsome has already proven this off-season that he can structure a cap-friendly contract, so he could certainly do the same with Albert. Although his reputation implies that he values draft picks, Newsome has shown in recent seasons that he is very willing to pull the trigger on trades. Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans were both acquired in recent years with trades involving draft picks.
Even though Newsome hasn’t made a trade as big as this prospective one, he undoubtedly would if he sees the value. Value in a blindside protector for the highest paid player in the history of the NFL should always be a priority.