Kansas City Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz announced that he is having surgery on Wednesday and is "looking forward to a healthy 2021" season after missing the majority of 2020 due to a back injury.
Schwartz made the announcement in a good-spirited tweet including what appears to be a pre-surgery selfie.
Injury Update: I’m getting surgery today. I was hoping to recover enough to get back for playoffs/Super Bowl but that didn’t happen. It’s time to address the issue. The recovery process isn’t too long, which is nice. Looking forward to a healthy 2021! #Chiefs #ChiefsKingdom
This is the most definitive report we've seen regarding Schwartz's future since he left the Chiefs' Week 6 game against the Buffalo Bills after the first offensive series. Even before the Bills game, Schwartz appeared to be struggling with some sort of nagging injury. Later in the year, Schwartz was placed on injured reserve and never returned to the field. Schwartz's tweet indicates that he was holding out hope that he may have been able to return for a playoff run, but most importantly, that he has every intention of being fully healthy and back on the field in 2021.
Wednesday evening, Schwartz tweeted again, confirming that surgery was successful and thanking everyone who reached out with their support.
What does this mean for the Chiefs?
Schwartz's status for 2021 and beyond was extremely up-in-the-air until today. It was easy to wonder if he would consider retirement after missing so much of the season with a lingering and apparently serious back injury that would have a chance to challenge him in years to come. However, in his own words in Wednesday's tweet, it sounds like Schwartz and his doctors are optimistic about a relatively quick turn-around for the surgery, which would also explain why he and the Chiefs were willing to let him wait out the 2020 season in hopes of a late-season recovery. If his rehab process won't extend deep into offseason/preseason activities, there would have been no rush to repair the injury.
What about the on-the-field impact?
Here's the short version: If Mitchell Schwartz returns to the 2021 Kansas City Chiefs and returns to his 2019 form, this will be the best news the Chiefs get all offseason. Better than their future draft picks, any free agent signing, any trade, any upgrades to Arrowhead Stadium.
Schwartz (again, if healthy) completely and dynamically changes what the Chiefs' offensive line will look like next year. In fact, last offseason, I remember having a conversation about the Chiefs' most valuable offensive players outside of Patrick Mahomes. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill were the consensus first and second non-Mahomes players to go off the board, then it was Schwartz third. At his best, Schwartz can be left one-on-one with any edge-rusher in the sport and allow the offense to give some extra help to the less-trusted linemen, also allowing longer-developing routes to find their footing.
What does Schwartz's return mean for the Chiefs' 2021 offseason plans?
For 2021, with the future of left tackle Eric Fisher remaining uncertain after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs' o-line is still a point of concern. But if Kansas City expects Schwartz to return on the right side (and with the return of 2020 third-round pick Lucas Niang who opted out due to COVID-19 concerns), the tackle situation goes from dire to workable with Schwartz's return.
It would still make a ton of sense for the Chiefs to invest in a tackle highly in the draft as Fisher could be released this offseason and Schwartz will be 32 years old when next season kicks off, but the amount of reworking KC will have to do before Week 1 is significantly lessened with Schwartz's hopeful return.