Eric Fisher has manned the left side of the Chiefs offensive line since his arrival in 2013, and Mitchell Schwartz on the right side formed one of the best bookend tackle duos in the league the past five seasons. Now both players are gone as the Chiefs look to navigate the salary cap in the COVID-19 era.
“All good things must come to an end,” Fisher said in his goodbye message to Kansas City posted on Instagram.
“Physically, I’m leaving with my head held high, beat up but not down for the count,” Fisher wrote. S/piritually, I couldn’t praise God enough for blessing my life in ways that I couldn’t have wrapped my brain around in a million years. Unfortunately I knew this time would come at some point. Sooner than I would have chose, but another opportunity to beat the odds.”
General manager Brett Veach pledged his respect for both players in a statement announcing the moves on Thursday.
“With Eric, obviously he was the very first player that we drafted when we got to Kansas City, and we were able to watch him grow into a solid tackle for us for many years,” Veach said. “With Mitchell, his durability and toughness is remarkable and he certainly left his mark on our team. These decisions are never easy, especially with guys like these, but both of these players will forever be a part of our history.”
The Chiefs released both players on Thursday, creating approximately $18.2 million in salary-cap space. Contract tracker OverTheCap.com estimates the Chiefs remaining approximately $4.4 million over the salary cap for the 2021 season, with the new league year beginning March 17.
Fisher arrived in Kansas City in 2013, the same season head coach Andy Reid arrived. The two-time Pro Bowler missed just 11 regular-season games after his selection as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Schwartz joined the club in 2016 as a free agent addition from Cleveland and continued his iron-man streak as one of the league’s premier right tackles. He played 7,894 consecutive snaps starting his career and didn’t miss a regular-season game during his first eight seasons in the league. A back injury limited him to just six games this season.
Reid thanked both players for their contributions to the club in a statement.
“Every day both of these men came to work with the right attitude, ready to grind, both on the field and in the classroom,” Reid said. “These guys are both dirty tough, but beyond that, they’re good people and I enjoyed coaching them. I wish them the best as they continue their careers.”
Both players entered the season with question marks due to injuries. Fisher suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the AFC Championship game against Buffalo, and appeared likely to miss the beginning of the 2021 season. Schwartz underwent back surgery last month but appeared on track to be ready to return to the field before training camp.
The departure of the two veterans leaves the Chiefs in the rare position of need to rebuild their offensive line. Among this season’s starters, only left guard Nick Allegretti is under contract for the coming season. Centers Austin Reiter and Daniel Kilgore, swing lineman Mike Remmers and left guard Kelechi Osemele are free agents while right guard Andrew Wylie is a restricted free agent.
Other players under contract for the coming season include tackles Martinas Rankin, Lucas Niang and Yasir Durant and guards Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Bryan Witzmann.