Franchised left tackle Branden Albert did not show up for the first day of voluntary offseason workouts today, saying he plans on “staying away” until the Chiefs provide him with more certainty about his future.
After signing his franchise tender last month, Albert has been the subject of trade speculation to those in need of a left tackle. Kansas City needs more draft picks in the higher rounds and may not be able to trade down from their number one overall position. Trading Albert may be their next best option.
This, of course, is not the kind of thing that is setting well with Albert, who has been confused by most of the Chiefs moves this offseason, especially the decision to release Eric Winston. After the Winston release Albert was on twitter making it known he was not willing to move to right tackle. His account was deleted shortly after those comments. Even a month removed from the Winston release Albert still feels the same way, telling ESPN’s Bill Williamson he will not move to right tackle.
Still, Albert wants to be a Chief and is looking for a long-term deal to ensure he stays in Kansas City. “I want to play for the Chiefs,” he told Williamson. “But I want that commitment long-term.”
The question now is if the Chiefs want Albert here long-term. In the short-term the Chiefs could use him. Donald Stephenson is slated to start at right tackle if the season started today, and if Albert were to leave and Kansas City drafted Luke Joeckel in the first round that would mean two very young offensive linemen would be playing on the edges to protect new quarterback Alex Smith. That is not necessarily an optimal situation.
Keeping him long-term may be an issue. Albert missed several games last season with a bad back, something that is not easy to overcome. And while Albert is certainly a very good left tackle, he is not a great one. He’s never made a Pro Bowl, let alone an All-Pro team, and can be a liability in the run game. Many have pointed to the fact Albert only gave up one sack all last season, but he also missed both games against Denver’s feared pass rusher Von Miller and didn’t have to play against Terrell Suggs either. A mildly healthy 29-year-old Albert may be able to handle Miller well enough but can a 34-year-old worn down Albert be able to handle the same duties? Heck, can Albert even make it to 34-years-old as a player?
An Albert trade plus trading down from the number one overall pick would give Kansas City plenty of chances to improve their offensive line situation but the odds that both will happen seem small. The return value of the first overall pick compared to an Albert trade may be the deciding factor to whether or not Albert stays a Chief. So expect the answer to the Albert question very soon.