Kansas City Chiefs fans may have been anxious when the team said goodbye to longtime bookend tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz.
But Chiefs general manager Brett Veach had something up his sleeve.
By saving $18.25 million through releasing their two starting tackles from last year and $17 million from restructuring Patrick Mahomes’ contract, the Chiefs were able to award Joe Thuney a five-year, $80 million deal.
That $80 million total is tied with Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan for the fifth highest in total value among NFL offensive linemen. Ronnie Stanley, Tyron Smith, David Bakhtiari and Zack Martin are the leaders, respectively, in total value.
According to Adam Schefter, Thuney’s two years are fully guaranteed at $32.5 million. Year Three converts to a fully guaranteed season in Year Two. That $48 million in guaranteed money ranks sixth in the NFL after Stanley, Bakhtiari, Lane Johnson, Lewan, and Laremy Tunsil, respectively.
Before the offseason began, Veach declared that addressing the offensive line was his main objective after seeing Mahomes having to run for his life — running an astounding 497 yards before throwing the ball or being sacked — and get hit eight times and sacked three times in Super Bowl LV.
MORE FOR YOU
“From a 1,000-foot view when you look at our roster composition,” Veach said, “we certainty want to build back our offensive line.”
Veach certainly did that.
Thuney started every game for the New England Patriots since being drafted in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. According to Pro Football Focus, he only allowed three penalties and two sacks in 2020.
He impressively began his career by starting in the Super Bowl in each of his first three seasons.
The catch is that the 28 year old mainly played left guard for the Patriots, and the Chiefs’ glaring need is at tackle. But the 6-5, 308-pounder has the size to potentially kick outside, or the Chiefs could have more moves in store, including in the upcoming NFL draft, in which offensive line is considered a strength.
“The draft looks to be really talented on the offensive line,” Veach said. “I certainly like the way the draft is shaping up.”
The Chiefs were able to plunge into free agency because of moves made last week.
The release of Schwartz, the right tackle who had signed a three-year, $24.455 million restructured contract extension in 2019, cleared $6.25 million of cap room. Fisher, the left tackle, signed a four-year, $48 million extension with Kansas City in 2016, and his release saved $12 million.
Converting Mahomes’ $21.7 million roster bonus to a signing bonus saved almost $20 million more.
Last July Mahomes signed a 10-year contract extension with the Chiefs through the 2031 season, and it could be worth up to half a billion dollars.
Though it might sound counterintuitive, extending contracts can sometimes help against the salary cap. It gives teams more years — and thus more flexibility — to be able to move money around.
“There’s always different solutions,” Veach said. “And I’m confident in my staff and our ability to create room.”