July 27, 2021

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Chiefs’ tough moves takes page from Bill…

3 min read
Chiefs' tough moves takes page from Bill...

On Thursday, the Kansas City Chiefs released offensive tackles Mitch Schwartz and Eric Fisher. While tough calls, they were the correct ones.

A year early is better than a year late.

This was the theory of San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh in the 1980s. It served him well. The same remains famously true of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots today.

For two decades, New England was the NFL pinnacle. The Patriots won six Super Bowls and reached nine, largely because they had Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, but also because they didn’t get old and expensive They maintained flexibility while retaining only a few core players through the years.

It wasn’t an accident. It was a design.

Belichick famously released safety Lawyer Malloy prior to the 2003 season. He allowed cornerbacks Ty Law and Asante Samuel to walk in following years. Belichick also traded away linebacker Mike Vrabel and defensive end Richard Seymour, the latter in his prime.

More recently, Belichick attempted to trade tight end Rob Gronkowski before he retired. The Patriots also let star guard Logan Mankins, defensive end Trey Flowers and a litany of others leave for huge dollars elsewhere. Almost without fail, the Patriots were ultimately better for it.

Enter the Kansas City Chiefs.

On Thursday, the Chiefs released starting tackles Mitch Schwartz and Eric Fisher. Schwartz, signed before the 2016 season, was a three-time Second-Team All-Pro and in ’18, was named First-Team. Fisher was the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 and reached two Pro Bowls, with both players serving as key cornerstones in Kansas City’s repeat Super Bowl trips.

Now, they’re gone. The Chiefs gained roughly $18 million in much-needed cap space but are left with a pair of gaping holes on either side of the line charged with protecting the sport’s face in Patrick Mahomes.

Both Fisher and Schwartz are coming off serious injuries on the wrong side of 30 years old. Fisher, 30, tore his Achilles tendon in the AFC Championship Game. Schwartz, 32, had back surgery in February and didn’t play after Week 6. Each had one year remaining on their deals, and both were unlikely to return afterwards.

Instead of risking catastrophe by banking on the health of Fisher and Schwartz, Kansas City decided to move on perhaps a year prematurely. The down side is obvious. When healthy, the Chiefs are losing two elite tackles.

The upside, though, is also obvious. General manager Brett Veach now has money to work with in free agency along with eight picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. Kansas City can fortify the offensive line either with young, cheap talent coming out of college or go with veterans to rebuild the front wall.

Ultimately, Veach and the Chiefs are gambling.

Kansas City believes it can either upgrade the positions or at least stay relatively flat to Fisher and Schwartz at their healthy levels while potentially lowering costs. If so, the Chiefs can weaponize their cap space to find another receiver and/or edge rusher when free agency begins next week.

For a few years, Kansas City has been seen as the burgeoning dynasty in football.

The Chiefs are starting following the blueprint by finding a Hall of Fame coach and quarterback. Now they’re continuing down the same road by parting with some of their best players.

It seem Kansas City believes in the same principles rooted in San Francisco and New England.

A year early is better than a year late.

Chiefs’ tough moves takes page from Bill Belichick’s book