With just a single Week 1 starter in the lineup on Sunday, Patrick Mahomes’ battered and bruised frontline forced the superstar signal-caller to run around for 497 yards prior to his 49 passing attempts and three sacks taken — all while playing through a significant turf toe injury that is being operated on Wednesday.
Among the missing pieces for Kansas City on Sunday were starting LT Eric Fisher (torn Achilles), LG Kelechi Osemele (torn knee tendons), RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (COVID-19 opt-out) and RT Mitchell Schwartz (back). The absence of Mahomes’ bookend tackles was especially evident up against Tampa’s dynamic pass-rushing duo of Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul.
While Fisher is not expected to return to football activities until sometime during training camp, the future of Schwartz remains a bit murkier.
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Schwartz on Back Injury: I’ll Share More ‘at Some Point’
On Tuesday, the All-Pro right tackle took to Instagram to speak out on his injury for the first time since exiting the Chiefs’ Week 6 game in Buffalo, never to return in 2020.
Year 9 in the books. Not the ending any of us wanted as we fell just short of the ultimate goal. Thought I’d have a few more of these runs out of the tunnel this year. It was the first time in my football career that I’ve missed games (190 or so starts in a row over 13 years dating back to college, shoutout to those of you questioning my toughness/heart or saying “it’s just your back”), and what a strange experience that was. Not being out there every week, and especially a few days ago, flat out sucked. I’ve never talked/posted about my workouts or health in the media, and I know a lot of you are curious what’s been going on. I’ll share that at some point but I’m looking forward to getting healthy and getting my body right! Thanks for all the support and well wishes, wish I could’ve been out there, but proud of the season we had nonetheless!
Considering the season reached its conclusion over the weekend, Schwartz deferring to share more on his injury “at some point” makes relevant the speculation that his ailing back is in worse shape than initially expected. Unfortunately, nobody outside of the Chiefs’ training and coaching staff will know the severity until we hear it directly from the horse’s mouth. Regardless, back injuries are not something to take lightly, and it’s clear the organization felt the same way in playing it safe in 2020.
Dating back to the final weeks of the regular season, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has given similar nondescriptive updates on Schwartz’s status. Though Big Red’s most recent answer on the 31-year-old’s availability for the Super Bowl was perhaps the most telling of where Schwartz is at in his rehab.
“There’s nobody that wants to be there more than him, but I can’t tell you I’m that optimistic about it,” Reid said on January 25, via 41 Action News’ Aaron Ladd.
Schwartz Previously Named Potential Cap Casualty
Judging by Spotrac’s estimation of Kansas City’s financial situation, the Super Bowl runner-ups will need to shed approximately $18 million off their books if the salary cap drops to $185 million in 2021. With a recent report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggesting the cap will be closer to $180-181 million per club, the Chiefs’ number could realistically be as high as $22 million over budget.
That said, general manager Brett Veach told reporters last week that he still expects to be in a moderately comfortable position.
However, the Chiefs could still be forced to make some tough decisions to part ways with established veterans, who typically come with bloated cap hits. In late December, Spotrac pegged Schwartz as a likely candidate to be on the team’s 2021 roster bubble.
RT Mitchell Schwartz
Age — 31
2021 Cap — $10,005,000
Schwartz is likely to finish 2020 on the sidelines with a back injury, putting his 2021 status in question. There’s a $1M roster bonus due in early March, with $6.25M of cap to be cleared per a trade or release prior to it ($3.75M of dead cap).
With injury concerns on both ends of the line and four veterans — Osemele, Mike Remmers, Austin Reiter and Daniel Kilgore — set to become unrestricted free agents in March, the Chiefs would be wise to dedicate a portion of their eight draft picks to reinforcing the trenches. Behind Schwartz, who will turn 32 years old on June 8, Kansas City also has promising youngsters in 2020 third-rounder Lucas Niang, Yasir Durant and newly signed Prince Tega Wanagho ready to compete for snaps this offseason.
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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!