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Earlier this week, the Kansas City Chiefs decided to part ways with offensive lineman Martinas Rankin in a minor roster move that brought aboard yet another fringe candidate at wide receiver. Compared to the potential buzz surrounding him when he first arrived in K.C., it’s telling that his exit is a mere footnote in the middle of June just a couple seasons later.
Martinas Rankin‘s release is primarily based on two factors: 1.) the depth of the Chiefs offensive line after an offseason spent rebuilding it, and 2.) Rankin’s own injury history. For the last couple years, the Chiefs had leaned on Rankin in part with the hopes that he would become some much-needed help along the offensive front. This week, they finally moved on from such false hopes and shifted in a different direction.
Nearly two full years ago, the Chiefs flipped veteran running back Carlos Hyde in a late preseason deal to the Houston Texans in exchange for Rankin, a former third-round pick out of Mississippi State who had yet to make an impact at the pro level. The move would eventually become yet another in a long line of buy-low moves by general manager Brett Veach in the hopes of striking gold with a change of scenery.
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Rankin’s inability to stay healthy has been the issue that’s plagued him from the start, a sort of curse placed upon him by the powers that be. Rankin’s first injury at the pro level happened before he’d even signed his rookie deal, as he went down with a foot injury that required surgery during rookie minicamp with the Texans. The injury would cost him the majority of training camp.
Fortunately for Rankin, he stayed healthy for his first full season and played in all 16 games, making 4 starts. However, his performance didn’t win anyone over and the Texans made it clear to all that they were willing to move Rankin the very next year after they drafted him so early. Word got out that summer that the Texans were going to waive him outright, but the Chiefs offered Hyde and secured the rights to him then.
In Rankin’s first season with the Chiefs, Rankin made a handful of starts at left guard and looked like a potential steal for the Chiefs. Unfortunately, in Week 10, he had a chance to step in for Mitchell Schwartzwhen the team’s right tackle was forced to leave a start—a very rare occasion. However on the next play, Rankin went down with a season-ending knee injury.
In 2020, Rankin’s biggest headline was being placed on the COVID-19 list at one point as he appeared in only a single game, and even that was Week 17 when the team rested its starters for the postseason against the Chargers. Note that Rankin was unable to find playing time on a team that saw nearly every starter get injured and played street free agents at key points down the stretch.
It’s possible that Rankin never quite healed from the shoulder injury that plagued him last season, but the fact that the couldn’t secure playing time for the Chiefs was quite telling. Even now as the team prepares its roster for the regular season, it’s amazing to see other players who seem like longer shots than Rankin surviving longer.
At this point, the Chiefs decided they would rather invest a roster spot in an extra returner like Darrius Shepherd than to retain Rankin any longer. It’s a steep and unfortunate fall for a kid who came into the NFL as a Day 2 pick with versatility and potential. Maybe Rankin will find his way forward with another team, but his injury history and inability to make it happen thus far feel like evidence to the contrary.