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Will Natural Attrition Hit KC's O-Line In 2011?

Posted Jul 6, 2011

Established veterans mix with promising young players to make Kansas City's offensive line situation worth watching

Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli often talks about the natural attrition that occurs on across each NFL roster. At what point does the constant cycle and motion of players turn over? Who is entering their prime, past their prime, ready for more or no longer able to meet demands?

On the offensive line, Kansas City has already begun preparing for tomorrow. The question is whether or not tomorrow begins in 2011.

Rookie OL Rodney Hudson and second-year G/C Jon Asamoah are both candidates to step into starting roles this season. Then again, Kansas City’s veteran offensive line paved the way for the NFL’s top rushing attack last season and reduced Matt Cassel’s sack total by nearly 30%.

At what point is it time to turn the page on the Chiefs aging, but steady veteran hands?

Mum’s the word on Casey Wiegmann’s plans to retire or play another season. Most assume that the Chiefs will invite the 37-year old free agent to return if he chooses the latter. However, center also appears to be the deepest position on Kansas City’s offensive line.

If the door closes on Wiegmann, Hudson would be the front-runner to take over the starting role. The Chiefs could also opt to tender Rudy Niswanger, who has 31 starts at the position, or rely on swing players like Jon Asamoah and Darryl Harris to round out the depth chart.

With Wiegmann, the Chiefs will enter 2011 armed with a cerebral iron man who continues to defy the odds of the average NFL career. Without Wiegmann, the future at center becomes the present.

At guard, the Chiefs aren’t nearly as deep without Brian Waters. Especially if Wiegmann isn’t a part of next year’s roster.

There has been some recent speculation regarding Waters’ future in Kansas City. The Chiefs highest-paid offensive lineman, Waters enters the final year of his contract while Asamoah pushes for an opportunity to enter the starting lineup.

Had 2011 offered a traditional off-season we’d have a much better sense regarding Kansas City’s plans at the position. No OTAs mean no sneak peeks and no additional evaluation opportunities. Though Asamoah can play both guard positions, he spent more time on the right side in 2010.

Ryan Lilja, who is five years younger than Waters and part of Peter King’s 2010 All-Pro Team, is coming off a fine first season in Kansas City and is expected to hold down the starting post at right guard once again in 2011.

A decision to part with Waters would no doubt make headlines throughout the NFL. Waters has been the unquestioned voice and leader of the Chiefs offensive line since Will Shields retired and arguably even before then. Waters is also coming off his fifth Pro Bowl appearance and was recently selected as the 64th best player in the game by fellow NFL players.

While Asamoah’s future is bright, such a move would trigger a series of other decisions as Asamoah finished 2010 as the only reserve guard on Kansas City’s 53-man roster. Niswanger last played the position as a rookie and Harris spent all of 2010 on the practice squad.

Should Wiegmann receive and accept an invite to return for a 16th season, it’s possible that Hudson steps into the role that Asamoah performed last season as Kansas City’s top interior reserve. Or maybe Hudson battles with Asamoah for a starting job at guard?

Wiegmann’s retirement could conceivably affect decisions at both center and guard.

At the tackle position, it’s hard to see a young player upending either incumbent. It would be a major upset if Branden Albert, who is signed through 2012, doesn’t start Opening Day at left tackle.

On the right edge, Barry Richardson is likely to face some type of veteran competition but is riding a wave of confidence after the Chiefs passed on selecting a tackle in April’s draft.

 Look for the Chiefs to pick up a veteran tackle and/or re-sign a familiar face like Ryan O’Callaghan to round out depth and increase competition on the edge. Undrafted free agents will likely add to the mix as well.

Natural attrition is eventually going to hit the Chiefs offensive line, but will it arrive in 2011?

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