With coach Andy Reid signaling the beginning of the Eric Fisher era at left tackle, this week’s Rosterology update features a flurry of changes along the Chiefs’ offensive line.
That the new Chiefs left tackle is a player already on the roster is not a huge surprise at this point. Too many free agent left tackles are off the market, and any free agent the Chiefs might sign would be a marginal upgrade at best.
It is a surprise Reid is giving the nod to Fisher. Donald Stephenson filled it at left tackle last season at times when Branden Albert was hurt, including starting at left tackle against the San Diego Chargers in week 17.
Stephenson generally received higher grades than Fisher, who played exclusively at right tackle as a rookie. But given his status as the No. 1 pick in the draft, Fisher was selected to be the team’s left tackle of the future. The future appears to be here.
Other changes this week include the recent free agent signings of cornerback Christopher Owens and defensive tackle Cory Grissom. Rosterology also reflects the official departures of free agents Kendrick Lewis and Akeem Jordan.
Throughout the 2014 offseason, “Rosterology” on ChiefsSpin.com will bring roster madness to the Chiefs, providing an opportunity to follow the building of the team throughout the offseason as players win spots on the team, sleepers play their way to starting positions and seeming locks fade down the stretch.
Here’s the depth chart as it stands now. Players marked with an asterisk (*) are considered 90 percent likely or better to make the 53-man roster. Players without an asterisk are on the bubble, meaning they would currently make the team but are not guaranteed a roster spot. Spots marked “OPEN” indicated there is no one currently under contract to likely fill that spot on the depth chart.
|WR||Donnie Avery*||A.J. Jenkins*||Weston Dressler|
|LT||Eric Fisher*||Jeff Linkenbach*|
|C||Rodney Hudson*||Eric Kush*|
|RG||Rokevious Watkins||Rishaw Johnson|
|TE||Anthony Fasano*||Travis Kelce*||Richard Gordon|
|WR||Dwayne Bowe*||Junior Hemingway||OPEN|
|QB||Alex Smith*||Chase Daniel*||Tyler Bray|
|RB||Jamaal Charles*||Knile Davis*||OPEN|
Unsigned Free Agents: WR Kyle Williams
Signed for 2014: TE Sean McGrath, RB Cyrus Davis
Signed to Reserve Squad: RB Joe McKnight, T Colin Kelly, C Chandler Burden, T R.J. Dill, WR Frankie Hammond, TE Demetrius Harris, WR Jerrell Jackson, FB Eric Kettani, WR Rashad Ross, WR Fred Williams
Reid’s announcement of Fisher as the starting left tackle entering training camp shakes up the offensive line significantly. Fisher’s move to left tackle makes Stephenson the likely starter at right tackle. But Fisher’s move also impacts other positions. The Chiefs need depth at tackle given Fisher’s lack of experience and injury-plagued rookie season, making it more likely that Jeff Linkenbach will be the primary backup at left tackle. The versatile Linkenbach can still fill in at other slots as needed, but he’s the security blanket if Fisher stumbles out of the block.
With Linkenbach less likely to play a significant role at guard, that opens up the right guard position. That position is in major flux. Rishaw Johnson has received a lot of media buzz in recent weeks, and he started at right guard against the Chargers in Week 17. But for what it’s worth at this early stage of the offseason, the unofficial offseason depth chart on the team’s website previously listed Rokevious Watkins as the starter at right guard. The depth chart no longer appears on the website.
Still, the team clearly likes Johnson and Watkins, and this should be one of the more competitive races for a starting job in training camp. Unless the Chiefs make an announcement similar to Reid’s declaration on Fisher, it will be worth watching who lines up with the first team during organized team activities following the draft.
The indication the Chiefs are done searching for a new left tackle means the Chiefs will have room to keep both Johnson and Watkins, and still have room to draft an offensive lineman.
|LDE||Vance Walker*||Allen Bailey||Mike Catapano*|
|NT||Dontari Poe*||Cory Grissom|
|LOLB||Justin Houston*||Frank Zombo*|
|LILB||Joe Mays*||Nico Johnson*||OPEN|
|RILB||Derrick Johnson*||James-Michael Johnson|
|LCB||Brandon Flowers*||Marcus Cooper*||OPEN|
|RCB||Sean Smith*||Chris Owens|
|FS||Sanders Commings*||Husain Abdullah*|
Unsigned Free Agents: None
Signed for 2014: CB Ron Parker, DE Jaye Howard, LB Dezman Moses
Signed to Reserve Squad: DE Dominique Hamilton, DE Demarcus Van Dyke, DT Chas Alecxih, DT Risean Broussard, LB Jordan Campbell, LB Alonzo Highsmith, LB Josh Martin, LB Ridge Wilson, CB Vernon Kearney, CB Terrance Parks, S Malcom Bronson
The signings of Owens and Grissom are largely depth signings. Based on the development of Marcus Cooper, Owens may project as the team’s fourth cornerback — and as a fourth corner, Owens would offer terrific depth. This signing still leaves room for at least one and likely two more defensive backs.
Grissom does make the current 53-man roster but he’s a definite bubble player. His contract is a minimum-salary deal that does not commit the team for 2014. His signing still leaves an open roster spot for a defensive lineman.
Keep an eye on cornerback Ron Parker and defensive end Jaye Howard. The duo are currently the “first two off” the 53-man roster, but there are open roster spots for both players if the Chiefs do not acquire another free agent or draft picks.
The biggest question marks on special teams remain who will be the primary kick returners. Knile Davis and Weston Dressler remain the two most likely candidates, but the Chiefs need both depth and experience. It still seems likely the Chiefs will look for a defensive back, wide receiver or running back with kick return experience.