When the Kansas City Chiefs reached a long term deal with Dwayne Bowe that allowed them to franchise left tackle Branden Albert, it appeared that Luke Joeckel to Kansas City was less likely to happen. Kansas City would have both Albert and right tackle Eric Winston on the roster.
Last night, though, the word came out that Kansas City was releasing Winston, who just signed with the team last year (and famously called out fans for cheering a Matt Cassel injury). Such a move could potentially be clearing a way for drafting Luke Joeckel despite the presence of Branden Albert. Progress on a long term deal there has been slow. Albert has publicly said that he is not moving positions. It is possible that the Chiefs are taking the view that they can get one more year out of Albert before transitioning to someone like Joeckel at the position, and have Joeckel start at right tackle for a year.
While it would be less common to draft a player like Joeckel highly and then not start him at left tackle, it has been done in the past. Jordan Gross started at right tackle in 2003 when the Panthers kept Todd Steussie at left tackle for one more year–the Panthers offense improved and they went to a Super Bowl. Dallas did the same with Tyron Smith before swapping he and Doug Free last year. Hall of Fame inductee Jonathan Ogden started at left guard his first year in Baltimore, with veteran Tony Jones at left tackle. The Ravens went from 25th in scoring to 6th that year with Ogden and Jones both on the line. Willie Roaf also started at right tackle as a rookie before sliding over to left tackle. Chris Hinton of the Colts (part of the John Elway trade as the fourth overall pick) also started at guard for one season before moving to left tackle.
The problem would be not moving to left tackle fairly quickly, not in trying to maximize two tackles for one season before transitioning. Here are the names of the other tackles drafted in the top ten since 1980 who started their career at right tackle or guard in their rookie year, and did not move to left tackle: Jason Smith, Andre Smith, Levi Brown, Robert Gallery, Mike Williams, Leonard Davis, Kyle Turley, Lincoln Kennedy, Charles McRae, Antone Davis, Tony Mandarich, and Dean Steinkuhler.
That is mostly a who’s who of bad picks early in the draft at tackle.
If the Chiefs are planning on squeezing one more year out of a decent veteran tackle before transitioning, then it wouldn’t be the worst move. If they plan on signing Albert long term, or don’t view Joeckel as a left tackle over the long haul, then it would be a bad use of resources.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images, all research on starting information for tackles via pro-football-reference]