After not worrying much about the right side of the offensive line for the past five seasons, the right tackle position is now arguably the biggest question mark along the Kansas City Chiefs’ revamped front heading into the 2021 season.
Parting ways with Mitchell Schwartz on March 11 has left the reigning AFC champions with a combination of veteran Mike Remmers, 2020 third-rounder and COVID-19 opt-out Lucas Niang and free agent addition Kyle Long, who earned his most recent Pro Bowl nod at the position back in 2015.
While Schwartz continues to rehab from a February surgery to repair a disk in his back — an injury that forced the All-Pro to miss the team’s final 10 games and all of the playoffs last year — he is still drawing interest from NFL teams, now potentially including an AFC West rival.
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NFL OL Coach: ‘Look out for the Broncos’ Signing Schwartz
As first reported on Twitter by FanSided national NFL insider Matt Lombardo on Tuesday, May 4, at least one NFL source has named the Denver Broncos as a team to watch for as a suitor for the 31-year-old Schwartz.
The Broncos suffered a notable loss on Tuesday when right tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered an Achilles injury, putting the 2014 first-rounder’s $10 million salary in jeopardy after he discontinued working out at the Broncos facility to honor the wishes of the NFL Players Association to skip voluntary offseason workouts. The conundrum even drew backlash from Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill on Twitter.
Originally described as a season-ending torn Achilles by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, an updated report from NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo suggested that doctors are now hopeful James won’t miss the entire year.
Still, Denver is expected to be without James for an extended period of time, leading to speculation that the team will look to bring in a stopgap on the right side. Elaborating on his initial report in his new column on Wednesday, May 5, Lombardo directly cited an NFL offensive line coach who named the Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals as logical landing spots for Schwartz once healthy.
One player who could see an increased market, especially after Denver Broncos right tackle Ja’Wuan James was lost for the season after rupturing his Achilles Tuesday, is former Kansas City Chiefs stalwart tackle, Mitchell Schwartz.
“Mitchell is a very, very good right tackle,” an offensive line coach tells FanSided. “I feel like if he’s healthy, a team with a right offensive tackle need and cap space will sign him.
“A team like the Bengals really makes sense to keep Joe Burrow upright, and look out for the Broncos after what just happened.”
For now though, Schwartz appears to be less of a priority given his ongoing recovery from a serious back issue. As of Wednesday, the Broncos have scheduled visits with veteran tackles Bobbie Massie and Dennis Kelly, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Schwartz Expected to Be Ready by 2021 Regular Season
Just 10 days before cutting the 10-year veteran and left side counterpart Eric Fisher to clear $8.2 million in salary cap space, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach expressed optimism that Schwartz would be able to return to the field by training camp this summer.
“Mitch just recently had his disc worked on and we’re hopeful for him to return to training camp and same thing with Fish [Eric Fisher],” Veach told reporters on March 1. “We’re hopeful both these guys will complete the rehab and be available for training camp and to start the 2021 season.”
Fisher, 30, is also getting another look with an AFC competitor, the Indianapolis Colts, who will host the former No. 1 overall pick for an official visit this week, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Tuesday.
Head coach Andy Reid acknowledged to reporters on April 19 that “the door always remains open” for a possible return for both tackles, though the club’s trade for Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. days later likely rules out Fisher. Schwartz though recently said on 610 Sports Radio that he’d still be interested in a reunion with Kansas City.
“I would obviously entertain coming back here,’ Schwartz told The Drive on April 29. “For the short term, I just want to get healthy.”
Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!