All good things must come to an end. The Chiefs decided to part ways with both of their offensive tackles on Thursday.
The Kansas City Chiefs had been quiet so far in the offseason, but Thursday morning the team announced their first moves of the offseason. They weren’t small ones either.
Cutting Fisher seemed predictable and was something that has been on the table since the team re-worked his contract in 2019. With Fisher tearing his Achilles tendon in the AFC Championship Game in January it more or less made the decision for Veach easier moving forward. The move will save the Chiefs around $11 million dollars in salary-cap space. Cutting a player who is injured is a tough pill to swallow for both sides, but Fisher was likely on the way out due to the $11 million.
The other move the Chiefs made was much more shocking but was made for very similar reasons to the Chiefs decision to cut Fisher.
This move was more of a shock considering Schwartz had publicly said he had planned to come back after undergoing back surgery in February. Schwarts had missed ten games and all of the postseason looks like he will be out of football for the time being, and again when pressed with hard decision Brett Veach made a firm decision. Cutting Schwartz will save the team about as much as cutting Fisher did, and it should open up $22 million dollars in cap space for the team to work with.
So where does this leave the legacies of the Chiefs long time tackles in Kansas City history?
Eric Fisher was the first overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft and was the first player selected of the Andy Reid era in Kansas City. An up and down start to his career had many in Kansas City ready to label him a bust, but as the years went on he progressed himself into one of the better left tackles in the game. He started 113 games, made two Pro Bowl teams, and was a key part in the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl in 2019. This has earned Fisher a spot in the ring of honor someday in Kansas City.
In his prime Mitchell Schwartz was without question one of the best tackles in football, but he was never able to get his due for one reason or another. In five seasons with the Chiefs, he made the All-Pro team four times played 7,894 snaps in his career, and started 134 out of 134 career games. In the Chiefs Super Bowl run in 2019-2020, he was noted for not giving up a sack the entire season and allowed fewer than five pressures in the postseason.
This is elite. It would be hard to find a player in the history of the NFL to play the position at a higher level for that time span. One of the great technicians of the game Schwartz will join Fisher in the ring of honor.
So where does this leave both players?
I think after the proper time to rehab his Achilles injury Fisher can return to the NFL either late in 2021, or in 2022. In 2022 he will be just turning 32 years old, and if he can retain his athletic ability he will find a way to make a roster.
Schwartz’s situation is less clear. Back injuries are the downfall of offensive linemen in the NFL, and at 31 years old it seems the best years are done for Schwartz. He will have to get his body and his weight back and pass a physical before he is ready to return to the game.
Schwartz and Fisher were both excellent for the Chiefs, and not only did they change the culture but they helped usher in the Mahomes era (literally) and helped the team win a Super Bowl, and reach another. That was the past, as fun as it was, we will never get it back. Brett Veach is focused on the now.
With the team announcing it will also be letting two-year starting center Austin Reiter walk, Veach will have to rebuild the Chiefs offensive line. We saw him rebuild the entire defense in 2020, but now he will be under a much tighter salary cap. This will make it difficult, and we will see the team strain every bit of their resources, but the man with the plan gives us a reason not to worry. That, and a ridiculously loaded draft class.
Will there be 3 rookies making up the o-line this year? Two draftees this year and Niang who is basically a rookie since he opted out last year. Reminds me of the ’81 49’er’s that won the SB w/ three rookies in their secondary. Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, and a third that slips my mind.