There was a time not that long ago when Paul Fanaika was a young offensive lineman on an Andy Reid-coached team in Philadelphia.
Six years later, Fanaika is back with Reid, this time on a three-year contract with the Chiefs worth $8.1 million guaranteed, a source told The Star.
“No, I didn’t see this coming at all,” Fanaika, 28, said during a conference call with reporters. “But it’s just funny how things work out and (I’m) back to playing for coach Reid.”
Fanaika was a seventh-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.
“Well, we were starting to get to know each other,” Fanaika said of Reid. “He drafted me; I was a rookie and I was there for a majority of the season back in 2009 on the practice squad. We had a pretty good relationship.”
Fanaika, a 6-foot-5, 327-pounder, was signed by Washington late in the season, and after stints on the practice squads of the Browns and Seahawks, he finally earned a chance to become a starter with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013.
He started 30 of 32 regular-season games at right guard for the Cardinals, and will get an opportunity to do the same in Kansas City, even though rookie sixth-round pick Zach Fulton, who started 16 games last season for the Chiefs, returns.
Both players will be looking to improve on last season. Fulton’s Pro Football Focus grade of minus-14.6 ranked 64th out of 78th qualifying guards and Fanaika’s minus-20.9 granked 71st. Fanaika allowed one sack, seven hits and 29 hurries, and Fulton allowed three sacks, five hits and 21 hurries.
“Yeah, there is always going to be competition, especially in the offseason,” Fanaika said. “Nothing is for certain. They might have it one way now, but the depth chart could completely be different come training camp and when the season comes.”
Competition on the offensive line isn’t a bad thing. Quarterback Alex Smith was pressured roughly at the same pace the last two years (36 percent in 2014 compared with 34 percent in 2013), but that doesn’t take into account that the Chiefs’ pass blocking declined to 23rd in the league in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus.
To help improve the pass protection, the Chiefs also traded for Ben Grubbs, who is the presumed starter at left guard, which was arguably the biggest problem position on the offensive line.
In addition to Fanaika, they also have four other guards who could play on the right side, including Jeff Allen — a former second-round pick who missed 15 games last season because of an elbow injury — and three young developmental prospects in Ricky Henry, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Jarrod Pughsley.
But the competition doesn’t faze Fanaika, who says he settled on the Chiefs during free agency because of the combination of opportunity and atmosphere.
“Yeah, there was interest from a few other teams, but I could just feel that Kansas City wanted me the most, so it’s definitely good to come into a situation where you’re wanted,” Fanaika said.
In fact, a word Fanaika repeatedly used to describe the atmosphere in Kansas City was “comfortable.”
“Something about the idea of playing for Kansas City and living in this area just seemed appealing to me,” Fanaika said. “So that definitely helped me decide.”