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Offensive Line carnage

Quality lines say goodbye to quality players

Some of the more dramatic changes around the league this offseason so far are to offensive lines -- from Super Bowl representatives, other playoff teams and quality lines that fronted strong offenses. Retirement, trades and cap-related cuts; it's a much different landscape. Starting with the AFC Champs.

  • Kansas City cut starting tackle duo Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz on Thursday. In both cases, injury and cap figures were factors. Fisher tore his Achilles in the AFC Championship Game, so it's far from certain he'll play in 2021. His release saves the team $12 million against the cap. Schwartz had started every game in his eight-year career prior to battling injury and playing only six games this past season. He turns 32 this offseason, not necessarily retirement age for a tackle, but he's reportedly considering it. Kansas City is letting center Austin Reiter go too. That's at least three new starters in 2021. They'll be getting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif back after he opted out from 2020, which makes four.

  • The Raiders weren't a playoff team last year, but they did have a strong offensive line. They cut Gabe Jackson and traded Trent Brown to New England. Brown missed most of last season due to injury, but that's the preferred right side of their line gone. Richie Incognito was also cut, but he only played 2 games last year. Left through center looks good! But it will be a different line next season.

  • Pittsburgh brought back Ben Roethlisberger, but he'll be taking center snaps from a new starter. Pro Bowl (in all nine of his healthy season) center Maurkice Pouncey retired last month. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva is headed for free agency, so Pittsburgh will probably have new starters at the line's most important spots. Another starter, Matt Feiler, is also headed for free agency. Pittsburgh signed center B.J. Finney yesterday, perhaps a potential stopgap replacement, but a significant downgrade if that's who winds up starting.

  • The Chargers are another team down two starters on the line, with Mike Pouncey also retiring, and guard Trai Turner released yesterday.

  • The Ravens have Ronnie Stanley coming back at left tackle, and are apparently willing to satisfy Orlando Brown's requests to be traded, so he can play on the left side elsewhere. So Baltimore will have a new starter at right tackle next season.

  • Riley Reiff has been the Vikings starting left tackle the last four seasons; he was released this week. New starter on the blind side in Minnesota, too.

Many of these teams will look to fill those holes in the early rounds of the draft -- the first round, probably, where as many as seven tackles could be drafted. It's always amusing to see mocks that send running backs and wide receivers to teams in the first round (including the Steelers), when instead they'll bore the masses by selecting an offensive lineman.

What's clear is that some of the league's better teams will have multiple new starters on the offensive line in 2021. Will definitely have an impact on offenses in Kansas City, Las Vegas and elsewhere.

--Andy Richardson

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