Despite not ever being named to an All-Pro team and only one Pro Bowl, Flowers is recognized as one of the best corners in football with the versatility to play both outside and inside the numbers. General manager John Dorsey decided to part ways with Flowers to save nearly $15 million in cap space the next two seasons, paving the way for Alex Smith and Justin Houston extensions.
The move also opens the door for men like Marcus Cooper, Ron Parker, Chris Owens and Phillip Gaines. Without Flowers, Cooper is going to be a full-time starter on the outside with Owens certainly expected to see the bulk of slot coverage. They must excel for the Chiefs to have hope of another playoff berth.
Cooper played like gangbusters in the first half of the season before having a tough month, then rebounding to previous form. Now, only his second year in the NFL after being made a seventh-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers, Cooper needs to be solid against the likes of Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Ben Roethlisberger this season.
Owens comes into Kansas City off a season where he played for both the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns. Neither team wanted to retain him, something that sets off alarm bells around this office. Owens did register 3.5 sacks and has experience, both pluses for him in Bob Sutton's aggressive and complex scheme.
With Flowers, the Chiefs had the flexibility to play matchups in the secondary. Now, teams will know exactly which receiver will face who, depending on the play. Cooper is strictly the left corner, while Sean Smith is predominantly on the right side of the defense. Owens can only play in the slot, making it easy for teams to mix and match which receiver faces which cornerback.
As for Parker and Gaines, they need to make strides now. It is highly unlikely that the aforementioned trio of Owens, Smith and Cooper play all 16 games without injury. Should one of them go down, Parker is most likely on deck followed by Gaines. This could be a real disaster if these youngsters are not ready for bright lights.
Speaking of stepping up, I'm looking at you Dee Ford. Yes, the first-round pick must be able to contribute right away to help take some of the pressure off the secondary. It is a must for the Chiefs to get consistent pressure, especially against experienced signal-callers. Ford does not need to make the Pro Bowl, but he has to be a factor. The same goes for Allen Bailey and Vance Walker when they are on the field.
More than ever, the coaching staff is under the gun. This group is expected to be a playoff team and make further strides in the second year of this program. There is no time to take a step back.
Dorsey's releasing of Flowers was motivated by financials, but it also smacks of confidence in Reid and his people. This will not be easy for Reid and Sutton to overcome without some bloodshed, but ultimately it is their job to make sure these kids are brought along.
If they fail, so will the Chiefs.