KANSAS CITY, Mo. — General manager Brett Veach was very creative last season in helping the Kansas City Chiefs get back to the Super Bowl. He was dealing with a difficult salary-cap situation that left the Chiefs with just $177 in cap space at one point, but he still found a way to contract quarterback Patrick Mahomes, defensive tackle Chris Jones and tight end Travis Kelce.
This year, Veach will have to use all of its creativity and more to build an offensive line that protects Mahomes. The Chiefs fired tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, saving them more than $18 million but leaving them without two key positions.
The Chiefs could have five new starters on the offensive line in 2021 compared to last year’s season opener. Fisher and Schwartz are gone, Kelechi Osemele and Austin Reiter are potential free agents and Andrew Wiley is a restricted free agent.
The Chiefs will get reinforcements when Laurent DuVernay-Tardif and Lucas Niang return after being ruled out last season due to coronavirus. At best, this will only partially solve the problem of chiefdom. Niang could be one of the starting tackles next season, but DuVernay-Tardif is a guard.
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The managers have been planning these moves with Fisher and Schwartz for some time and waited until Wednesday’s news that the salary cap would be $182.5 million in 2021 to act. The cap is down by more than $15 million per team from last year, leaving the Chiefs with little choice but to take drastic action.
Injuries to Fisher and Schwartz have made these moves reasonable. Fisher, 30, underwent surgery in late January after tearing his Achilles tendon in the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. Schwartz, 31, missed most of last season with a back injury and recently had surgery.
At this point, the Chiefs have no assurance that either player will be healthy next season. Even if they do, will they come back with players of the same caliber as before the injuries?
Releasing them was easy. In doing so, the Chiefs solved a large part of their salary cap problems, and did so with players whose futures are uncertain.
Replacing them with players of the same caliber is where it gets complicated. The Chiefs still need to knock a few million dollars off their salary cap to reach the league ceiling. Just try to find money to contract potential free agents like Wylie, Byron Pringle, Charvarius Ward and Darrel Williams and their eight potential draft picks, and it’s hard to believe that the fired Fisher and Schwartz were a gamble to contract free agents like Trent Williams with big bonuses.
Wich will likely have to find a way to expand the offensive line without straining the Chiefs’ bloated salary structure. Maybe that means spending some of those eight misses on linemen. Maybe that means signing a small free agent or two. Maybe that means re-signing Fisher at a lower price if he proves he’s ready to play.
Whatever Veach does, the Chiefs have a lot to do. They got a glimpse of how Mahomes’ skills were neutralized when he played behind a shaky offensive line in the Super Bowl LV loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If this is the Chiefs’ future when it comes to defending Mahomes, it’s hard to see how they can live up to their half-billion dollar investment in the contract or achieve another Super Bowl anytime soon.
You have to do it right, and that can take money and imagination.
frequently asked questions
What did the Chiefs trade for Patrick Mahomes?
The Bills had the 10th pick in the offense before making a deal with the Chiefs to take the 27th pick. Kansas City’s pick, the third pick in 2017 and the first pick in 2018, included. This allowed the Chiefs to select Mahomes as their second quarterback after Chicago selected Trubisky.
How much are the Chiefs paying Patrick Mahomes?
News, Patrick Homes.
What is the nationality of Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs?
Patrick Mahomes’ parents are American citizens. His father is black and his mother is white. Patrick Mahomes’ parents divorced when the QB was just 6 years old, but for their son’s sake, they remain civil and can watch his football games amicably.
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