The Kansas City Chiefs head into the off-season with upgrading the offensive line as one of their main objectives. Scott Pioli even came out and said publicly that upgrading the offensive line was going to be a priority this off-season, and it's very unlike Pioli to come out and give any indication on what they are trying to do with anything. So the fact that he came out and said as much gives a little insight into what positions/players they could be targeting in free agency or the draft.
While most of the discussion has been revolving around the right tackle position in the Chiefs attempt to upgrade the offensive line, there hasn't been a lot of discussion about the center position. Most people would assume that 2011 2nd round draft pick Rodney Hudson would take over the position. But last years' starter Casey Wiegmann, who will most likely retire, got all of the snaps at center last year as Hudson only filled in at guard on a couple of occasions. It's not that Hudson still couldn't be the guy to take over at center, but with Ryan Lilja struggling at left guard for much of last season it's just as likely that Hudson could be in the mix to compete with Lilja for the starting spot at left guard. Which still leaves a hole at center.
There are two veteran centers that might hit free agency that the Chiefs could have some interest in come March. The first is New England Patriots center Dan Connolly, and the second is Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday. Connolly has youth on his side as the 29-year old center has played with the Patriots since 2007, while Saturday has been a steady rock at center for the Colts since 1999.
Connolly obviously brings with him his ties to Scott Pioli and the New England Patriots, which puts him at a major advantage in relation to other available players. He spent his first couple of years with the Patriots rotating between the 53-man roster and the practice squad before landing a contract extension in 2009 to keep him with the Pats through this last season. He has spent time at both guard spots as well as center with the Pats so that adds to his value. He grew up just a few hours from Arrowhead in St. Louis, Missouri and spent four years at Southeast Missouri State.
Saturday brings a wealth of experience and a resume that should have him bound for the Hall of Fame one day. He's been named to the Pro Bowl five times in his career ('05,'06,'07,'09,'10) and four times been named All Pro ('05,'06,'07,'09). He was also named the NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2007. His 12 years with the Colts have made him and soon-to-be ex-Colts starting quarterback Peyton Manning very close friends. Who knows if Saturday signing with the Chiefs would have any influence on Mannings' decision on possibly coming to Kansas City. In any case, Saturday would obviously not be a long-term solution, but a veteran leader on the offensive line at the most important spot on the offensive line would be a upgrade for the Chiefs at this point. Wiegmann doesn't appear to be an option heading into next season. Saturday could also team back up with former Colts guard Ryan Lilja, who spent six years with the Colts from 2004-2009.
There are both positives and negatives to signing either of these players. Connolly would hopefully be a more long-term solution to the offensive line and his versatility would put him a notch higher in my book, but if Saturday had any influence on Peyton Manning coming to Kansas City than he should be priority No. 1 for the Chiefs right now. Even above Brandon Carr and Dwayne Bowe.