One way or another, the Kansas City Chiefs were prepared to part ways with veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers this offseason. The resolution came Friday, when the Chiefs released Flowers as a post-June 1 cut -- a move that will save them close to $15 million combined over the next two seasons, according to salary-cap guru Corry Joel.
Flowers was set to earn a $2 million bonus just for showing up to training camp (he skipped the team's OTAs) and had $5.25 million in base salary and a portion of the $10 million signing bonus he received back in 2011. Essentially, all but that prorated signing bonus now clears off the books for a Chiefs team that had been tight against the cap.
Kansas City also has several other players in need of contract extensions in the near future, most notably Justin Houston and Jamaal Charles. Alex Smith could be included on that list, too, though his future remains a point of some debate.
The Chiefs' release of Flowers was announced mere minutes after the Lions revealed that they had cut a former starting cornerback of their own in Chris Houston, who needed toe surgery in May. Houston had just inked a five-year, $25 million deal with $8.5 million guaranteed last offseason and was expected to lock down the Lions' No. 1 cornerback job. However, he struggled mightily in 2013, and his status for 2014 was uncertain at best.
In the cases of both Flowers and Houston, their former teams will have significant questions to answer in the secondary moving forward.
Detroit had at a crack at its choice of cornerbacks in Round 1 of this year's draft but opted instead for tight end Eric Ebron. Not until Round 4 did the Lions address the position, with Utah State's Nevin Lawson. They're left with 2013 draft pick Darius Slay and veteran Rashean Mathis as the top two corners, with some combination of Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Jonte Green and Lawson fighting for playing time behind them.
The Chiefs jumped at the cornerback spot one round earlier than the Lions, taking Rice's Phillip Gaines at No. 87 overall. Gaines may find himself a significant part of Kansas City's plan from the get-go with Flowers out of the picture.
The Chiefs may not have much other choice. Sean Smith does return as the team's likely top corner, but there is little proven talent alongside him -- Sanders Commings saw action on three snaps in 2013; newcomer Chris Owens missed 15 games to injury; Marcus Cooper imploded late after a surprisingly strong start to his rookie campaign. The sleeper in the mix may be Ron Parker, who reportedly joined the first-team defense during a recent OTA practice. He picked off two passes while seeing action in all 16 games last season.
After earning a Pro Bowl nod for his 2012 season, Flowers had issues fitting in with a new coaching staff -- and new defensive scheme -- last year, on top of battling through knee and head injuries. With the Chiefs using more press coverage, Flowers eventually was demoted to slot duties. Houston was facing a similar issue in Detroit, with new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin looking to be more aggressive at the line, a style of play ill-suited to Houston's abilities.
Both cornerbacks now will join the free-agent market late, and at least Flowers should generate significant interest. At 28 years old, Flowers remains a viable starter in this league, particularly if a team believes it can tap into his pre-2013 form. The lack of trade interest in Flowers had far more to do with his balky contract than it did with his remaining ability. At a more reasonable price, he can expect to hear from several needy teams.
That list may include the Lions, though Flowers' aforementioned issues in press coverage all but eliminate this pairing. The Texans could be another interested party, now that ex-Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel is running the defense. Atlanta, Carolina, Oakland, New Orleans and Jacksonville also are among the squads with potential playing time available at cornerback. Houston's hope of landing somewhere will be held back, for now, until his toe heals fully. Flowers, on the other hand, will hit the ground running. Given the number of teams likely intrigued by his availability, the 2008 draft pick does not figure to be without a home for long.