Albert Trade Talk Should All but Guarantee Joeckel Is Top Pick of 2013 NFL Draft

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 18, 2013

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 13:  Offensive tackle Branden Albert #76 of the Kansas City Chiefs blocks linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos during the first half on November 13, 2011  at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  Denver defeated Kansas City 17-10.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert signed a franchise tender on Monday that will pay him nearly $10 million in 2013, but Albert might want to hold off on using some of that money to buy a new house in Kansas City.

Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel might want to start perusing the real estate ads, though, because if recent reports are to be believed, it's looking more likely than ever that he's going to be beginning his NFL career with the Chiefs.

According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, the fact that the Chiefs franchise-tagged Albert doesn't necessarily ensure that he'll be protecting Alex Smith's blind side on opening day, with King stating that "The Chiefs will listen to offers for him."

Granted, this could just be speculation on King's part, but assuming for a moment that this is true there are any number of teams, from the Miami Dolphins to the Arizona Cardinals, that are sorely hurting at left tackle and could make for potential trade partners with the Chiefs.

Such a trade wouldn't be cheap, but there's an added reason why one of those clubs might be motivated to pull the trigger on a trade for the 28-year-old Albert.

Joeckel—the 2012 Outland Trophy winner and the consensus top offensive lineman in this year's draft—isn't going to make it to a team like Arizona at seventh overall. The same holds true for Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, who has been flying up draft boards over the past few months.

If a team picking outside the top five wants an immediate upgrade at left tackle, then swinging a trade for Albert might just be their best bet.

However, even if the Chiefs don't deal Albert, the smart money's still on Luke Joeckel's name being the first one called when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium at Radio City Music Hall in April.

First, the franchise tag only keeps Albert in Kansas City for the 2013 season. The Chiefs are going to be right back in this position a year from now, and the affordable rookie contracts mandated by the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement look a lot better on the balance sheet than the $8-10 million (or more) a season that it's going to take to lock up Albert long-term.

Also, there's the matter of the Chiefs' hole at right tackle after releasing Eric Winston. Albert has repeatedly stated that he doesn't want to change positions, either to right tackle or guard, but just because Albert doesn't like the idea doesn't mean the Chiefs aren't considering it.

Or the team could play Joeckel at right tackle, at least for one season. Drafting a player first overall to man that spot would no doubt turn some heads, but if it's only for the short term it's not a crazy idea, especially in a day when top rookies no longer command ridiculous contracts right out of the gate.

As I said, this could all be much ado about nothing. Earlier this month, Ian Rapoport of reported that the Chiefs were looking at getting Albert locked up long-term and viewed him as their "left tackle of the future."

However, perhaps those talks have hit a snag. Or perhaps the Chiefs are just keeping their options open.

The fact remains, though, that in a year when having the first overall pick isn't all it's cracked up to be, that Luke Joeckel is one of the safer bets among this year's top prospects, a player whose "bust potential" would appear to be minimal.

So, whether the Kansas City Chiefs continue a very active offseason by shipping Albert out of town or not, the odds are pretty good that Luke Joeckel is going to be the number one pick in the 2013 NFL draft either way.

And frankly, that's the smart play.