Chiefs Urged to Make ‘Daring’ Offseason Trade on Offensive Line

Mitchell Schwartz Chiefs

Getty Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Mitchell Schwartz of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Following a disheartening 31-9 Super Bowl LV loss, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line has quickly become the team’s most pressing issue to address this offseason by most fans’ accounts.

Many of the issues exposed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass rush during the championship finale were the result of a bevy of injuries and COVID-19 opt-outs that transformed Patrick Mahomes‘ once-stable frontline into a unit that featured just one Week 1 starter — center Austin Reiter — by season’s end. Now with the new league year and free agency quickly approaching on March 17, the microscope is zoomed in on how the Chiefs can resurrect its offensive line to better protect the $503 million investment under center.

Last week, ESPN became the latest outlet to pinpoint All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz as a player Kansas City should address — and for good reason.

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The Case for Moving on From Schwartz

In a recent ESPN roundup piece highlighting a “daring” hypothetical offseason move for all 32 teams, Football Outsiders suggested that the Chiefs, who still need to shed approximately $19 million in salary cap space, trade or cut Schwartz for some financial relief.

Here was the justification for the move, via ESPN:

Moving either safety Tyrann Mathieu or left tackle Eric Fisher would bring the biggest cap relief, but both players feel too valuable to let go. The next-best option is Schwartz, who is set to make $10 million with a $3.75 million dead cap hit. It’s not ideal, especially seeing as what just happened to the Chiefs’ offensive line when he was out of the lineup for the Super Bowl, but the Chiefs are running low on ways to squeeze money out of their current cap situation.

Schwartz is still a plenty capable player, make no mistake. He helped guide the Chiefs to a solid 14th place in ESPN’s pass-block win rate in 2019 (his last full season). However, Schwartz is now coming off a back injury that took him out in Week 6 of last season. It’s entirely possible an injury like this could put Schwartz on the decline, especially since he is already into his 30s. Again, this will not be an easy move for the Chiefs to make, but something has to give this offseason.

Prior to exiting in Week 6, the former 2012 second-round draft pick had started all 134 career games to date. So as mentioned, should the Chiefs elect to make a move involving Schwartz, his back injury will likely play a large factor in any decision.

Back in December, Spotrac also highlighted Schwartz as a potential cap casualty on its 2021 NFL roster bubble list.


Schwartz Had Successful Back Surgery on February 25

The nine-year veteran tackle, who will turn 32 years old on June 8, finally had surgery on his ailing back last week after trying to “recover enough during the season to get back on the field,” which he acknowledged on Instagram.

Head coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs medical staff clearly played it safe with their starting right tackle throughout the season, a decision aided by the presence of veteran Mike Remmers, who did an admirable job filling in for Schwartz. While the fan-favorite also stated on Instagram last week that “the recovery process isn’t too long,” the situation still puts Kansas City in a tough spot if they truly did want to move on.

That is only amplified by the season-ending torn Achilles suffered by starting left tackle Eric Fisher in the waning moments of the AFC Championship game, an injury that could keep the former No. 1 overall pick sidelined into early next regular season.


Trading Schwartz or Fisher Unlikely, Cuts Still an Option

Fortunately, starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and 2020 third-rounder Lucas Niang are expected to return to the club in 2021, however, Reiter, Remmers and former starting guard Kelechi Osemele (recovering from season-ending knee injuries of his own) are all set to hit the open market.

The type of injuries both Schwartz and Fisher are dealing with are not ideal for offensive linemen, especially with both on the other side of 30 years old. According to Spotrac, both contracts also expire in 2022, though cutting Fisher would actually provide nearly double the cap savings this year ($12M to Schwartz’s $6.2M) while assuming about the same amount of dead cap ($3.8M to Schwartz’s $3.2M). Still, with less than $700,000 in dead cap on their books this year, it would be tough to envision the front office wanting to take on nearly five times that much in one transaction and kick the financial burden down the road.

In any sense, the health status of both tackles makes a trade unlikely as teams will be rightfully hesitant to surrender more than a late-round or conditional draft pick for taking on such a risk. Instead, if the Chiefs elect to make a move with either Fisher or Schwartz, expect it to be an outright release with the team filling the vacancy with a mid-low end free agent alternative and/or an investment in April’s draft.

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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!

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