The Kansas City Chiefs announced that both offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz have been released. This was a high possibility for the team, regarding their minimal salary cap space. With the league announcing that the league salary cap would settle in at $182.5 million, both players were possible cap casualties. Now, Kansas City will be looking for two new starting offensive tackles for 2021.
With today’s news, we will look back on each player’s tenure in the red and gold. They were each extremely vital to the Chiefs Super Bowl winning season in 2019. Meanwhile, we will also dive into how these releases affect the current cap space for Kansas City and what their possible plans may be going forward.
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- 2021 Chiefs Draft Prospect: Aaron Robinson
Career With Chiefs
After the dismal season Kansas City endured in 2012, they had possession of the number one overall pick in 2013. Newly hired head coach Andy Reid would go on to spend that selection on Eric Fisher. The Central Michigan product actually played at right tackle in his rookie season. And despite his struggles (seven sacks and 35 hurries allowed), Kansas City remained confident in him. He subsequently was moved back to left tackle, where he played in college. And gradually, Fisher started to show solid improvement.
He would go on to hold the starting left tackle position for seven consecutive seasons in Kansas City. Along the way, he was awarded with a four year extension worth $48 million in the summer of 2016. A two time Pro Bowler and one time Super Bowl champion, Fisher started in 113 regular season games and 11 postseason games with the Chiefs. His pass blocking and instincts grew to highly impressive levels near the end of his run with the team. He was also part of the main leaders in the locker room.
After his first four career seasons in Cleveland, the Chiefs signed Mitchell Schwartz in the 2016 free agency cycle. He received a five year deal for $33 million, which made him one of the highest paid right tackles in the NFL at the time. Schwartz was not only consistently reliable in dominating opposing pass rushers. But, he was one of the more durable offensive linemen in recent NFL history.
His highly regarded consecutive snap streak ended at a gaudy 7,894 snaps midway through 2019. A knee injury kept him out for a few snaps in a game at Tennessee. Last year’s back injury also ended his consecutive start streak. Schwartz started 134 consecutive games before that ended. In total, he started 70 regular season games and seven postseason games with Kansas City. A four time All-Pro and one time Super Bowl champion, Schwartz is one of top right tackles to have played in the NFL over the last decade.
Salary Cap Relief
As mentioned above, the NFL salary cap for 2020 is $182.5 million. As of yesterday, they were roughly $21 million over the cap. The releases of both Fisher and Schwartz saves the Chiefs $18.3 million in cap space. According to Spotrac, they are now just $4.3 million over the cap. General manager Brett Veach and his staff are intending to get under that cap number by the start of the new league year on March 17th next week. And while there is some dead cap money involved in these releases, the amount the Chiefs would have to eat from that is very minimal. It’s a difficult couple of moves to make. However, the lowered salary cap has already allowed many tremendous veteran players to become available on the open market. There is also a larger factor at hand, regarding Kansas City’s relationship with both Fisher and Schwartz.
Injuries Force KC’s Hand
Due to the age of each offensive tackle, their cap hits in 2020 and question marks surrounding their timetables to return to the field, these were necessary moves.
With Schwartz, he never returned after suffering the back injury in Week Six last season. He recently underwent back surgery. And while he may return to playing down the line, back injuries are rough for offensive linemen. The recovery rate has been hit or miss for many and it is difficult to get back to 100%.
For Fisher, his injury could not have come at a worse time in last year’s AFC Championship Game. A torn Achilles is one of the other top injuries that have proved difficult for blockers to return from. Besides that, there was a high possibility that Fisher was not going to be ready for the start of the 2021 regular season. Even if he played part of the season, who knows if he would see the field before the midway point of the year.
Where Do Chiefs Go From Here?
It’s an unfortunate nature of the business in the NFL. But, Kansas City definitely could not have entered next year with those players on the roster if they were going to be less than 100%. Their combined cap hits totaled $25.2 million, had they been on the Chiefs roster this upcoming season.
Despite being in a bind at offensive tackle, the need to get younger there and upfront overall was/is a high priority for Kansas City this offseason. The free agent options could continue to increase because of cap casualties being cut. On the other hand, the 2021 NFL Draft is rather deep at offensive tackle. Maybe the team will even trade up a bit in the first round from their current position at 31st overall to secure a premium talent.
The team also has 2020 third round pick Lucas Niang waiting in the wings. He opted out of his rookie season last year, because of concerns surrounding COVID. It is important to note that he never allowed a sack while at TCU. That is amazing in and of itself. Though, he was also playing hurt during his final season with the Horned Frogs. The Chiefs have high hopes for him and believe they can revamp the offensive line quickly.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.