It’s Super Bowl Sunday and fans of the Seattle Seahawks are left to watch the game and decide whether they want to root for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs or Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At the end of the day, which team comes away victorious will be largely irrelevant to Seattle fans, but one interesting side story to watch Sunday will be how the bargain basement Chiefs offensive line performs against a ferocious Bucs pass rush.
Tampa Bay finished with the second most pressures, the third highest pressure generated rate and the fifth most sacks of any defense in the NFL during the 2020 regular season, and when they face off against Kansas City Sunday they’ll be playing without three of their Week 1 starters on the offensive line. It’s certainly unlikely that the plan for the Chiefs heading into the season was to be without All Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher and All Pro left guard Kelechi Osemele. And yet, in spite of those injuries, the Chiefs offense hasn’t really missed a beat this season.
So, when the K.C. offense takes the field, the offensive line will be made up of a group that would challenge the 2016 Seahawks line in terms of cap hits.
The cap hit for the Chiefs' starting offensive line ($6,293,616) in the Super Bowl is less than Eric Berry's dead cap hit for 2020 ($8,000,000).— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) February 2, 2021
For a breakdown of where those cap hits come from, here is the projected unit as a group, along with their 2020 contract size:
- Mike Remmers: $1,187,500 contract (cap hit $887,500 after veteran minimum benefit)
- Nick Allegretti: $712,488 cap hit
- Austin Reiter: $3,758,334 cap hit
- Stefen Wisniewski: $1,050,000 contract (cap hit of $132,353 as he only joined the Chiefs practice squad in late November and was promoted to the active roster in December)
- Austin Wylie: $750,000 contract
All of that comes together to put to the test how much an offensive line matters in the passing game. Various forms of analytics have shown that success in the passing game is not all that highly correlated with pass blocking success. Whether that will hold true on the biggest stage with the Lombardi trophy on the line remains to be seen, but it’s one of those quiet storylines that will be interesting to watch play out.