Every year, there seems to be at least one veteran released from each NFL team that catches the fan base and even beat writers off guard. This year, discussion around the Kansas City Chiefs has a couple of names floating as possible contenders to lose their roster spots to younger guys for a team that might be wiling to move on. Ryan Lilja is often included in that conversation, but it seems as if the Chiefs are finding a way to keep him on the roster after all.
It's certainly not a foregone conclusion that Lilja is even a possible player to be cut, but the Chiefs guard said himself that he had a poor 2011 season and that he needed to turn things around for this year. The team also drafted Jeff Allen in the second round so it's clear that there's some competition at that spot. In short, one plus one could equal an easy two here.
However, the team is still young and a bit thin behind the starting front line, especially in the middle. The Chiefs are clearly moving on from Casey Wiegmann in the middle which moves Rodney Hudson to the starting center position. In doing so, the Chiefs lose the main reserve they had at all interior line positions from a year ago. Allen is green as a newly drafted rookie, so without Lilja, the team is perilously inexperienced all around.
The Chiefs have also recently had Lilja working a few reps at center in training camp which gives the team a bit more flexibility along the line in case of injury. The team is clearly rolling the dice with Hudson up front and names like Cam Holland and Rob Bruggeman behind him. If Lilja can adequately play the position and make the calls in Brian Daboll's new offense, that's a good move for both team and player.
If the Chiefs aren't finished with their roster construction and decide to pick up a veteran center, then perhaps this is all a moot point. After all, Wiegmann is still officially available if the Chiefs wanted to bring him back -- or if he didn't want to retire. Jeff Faine is also available if the Chiefs wanted to add a notable veteran. Until then, Lilja is likely the best option for both the team and player's future.