2. Harrison Butker, Chiefs
Despite the fact that he’s only been in the league since 2017, Butker has already proven himself to be one of the best kickers and if he keeps playing the way he’s playing, he might soon be at the top of his list. In four seasons with the Chiefs, Butker has hit 90.3 percent of his field goals (121 of 134), which makes him the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history and the only guy he’s behind is the guy who’s ranked ahead of him on this list.
Butker was a huge weapon for the Chiefs in 2020 and he showed just how clutch he can be early in the season when he hit a 58-yard game-winning field goal against the Chargers that still stands as the second-longest overtime field goal in NFL history.
BetMGM’s Sportsbook lists the former starting right guard with the sixth-best odds to take home the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award for 2021, with +1600 odds. Those listed ahead of Duvernay-Tardif are as follows:
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (+180)
Giants RB Saquon Barkley (+500)
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (+600)
Bengals QB Joe Burrow, 49ers DE Nick Bosa and Colts QB Carson Wentz (+800)
Julio Jones (+1200)
Frankly, it’d take a lot for Duvernay-Tardif to come away with the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2021. He is at a significant disadvantage by not playing what is considered a “skill” position. The fact that he won’t be scoring any points and isn’t constantly in the limelight will be problematic.
Kansas City Chiefs: Releasing Mitchell Schwartz
Not that long ago, Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz were considered arguably the best tackle duo in the NFL. But after the two veterans battled injuries last year and the Chiefs were obliterated in the trenches in Super Bowl LV, both players were released in the offseason.
For the most part, Kansas City did a great job retooling that offensive line. Joe Thuney was signed at guard, with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif set to join him after opting out in 2020. The Chiefs sent a first-round pick to Baltimore for Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
But while Mike Remmers did a decent job filling in for Schwartz last year, the right tackle spot could still be a question mark for the team in 2021.
However, there’s a chance the Chiefs have had a plan all along. Fisher has signed with the Indianapolis Colts, but Schwartz is still out there on the open market. With veteran Kyle Long already injured (again), a pretty compelling argument can be made that if Schwartz’s back is healthy (or expected to be), the Chiefs would be well-served to kick the tires on the four-time All-Pro (three second-team, one first-team).
Who says you can’t go home again?
Kansas City Chiefs
Offseason summed up in three words or fewer: Building a wall. The Chiefs re-made their offensive line over the past few months, adding eight linemen to better protect quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Offseason goals: The offseason for the Chiefs was mostly about upgrading the offensive line. They added linemen in every possible way (trade, free agency, draft, return from opt out). And after adding among others guards Joe Thuney and Kyle Long, and tackle Orlando Brown, they have no excuses to protect Mahomes as poorly as they did in the Super Bowl LV loss to the Bucs.
Biggest question still to be answered: Will the Chiefs regret not adding a wide receiver? They lost veteran Sammy Watkins and have nobody proven as a No. 2 receiver. In Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson, the Chiefs have some candidates but nobody who has done it every week. — Adam Teicher
Around the NFL
For at least two of the players over the coming weeks, there’s little time to relax. Quarterbacks Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater were in a battle for the team’s starting job when they left, and they will be in one again when they return in late July.
Coach Vic Fangio said almost all of meaningful grades haven’t been handed out yet.
“Obviously, coaches and everybody else likes to evaluate every day, but to me, the big evaluation will come more in camp,” Fangio said. “... So to me, they — if you’re going to put a percentage on it, the evaluation and comparing the two, is 2-3% these last few weeks. The 97-98% of it has yet to come.”
“It was a tough decision, a real tough decision,” Thomas told the Broncos’ official team website. “... Always as a kid or always when I did something, it was always [giving] my best to go and go and go. And football was my go. Every year I tried to get better and better, and I knew I was aging, of course. It was something tough, but I’m grateful I did 10, 11 years. I’m so grateful for that and now I can move on. I’m happy, I’m healthy. And now I can try to find my next itch.”
Coach Ron Rivera spent the bulk of the year battling cancer. Quarterback Alex Smith, who guided Washington to a 5-1 record in his starts, returned from a career and limb-threatening injury on his way to winning the Comeback Player of the Year award.
The battle both men went through wasn’t lost on those within the locker room, like young star receiver Terry McLaurin.
“I think that what was so unique for our team last year is that (Smith) and coach Rivera were so unique in the adversities they were going through last year,” McLaurin told SiriusXM NFL Radio over the weekend. “And it was a little similar, in that, obviously coach Rivera was dealing with cancer, but Alex Smith was dealing with a life-threatening injury. Just the way they approached practice, you would have never known anything was wrong, by the way. They never had a feel sorry for me moment. They never really had moments where they were going to use what they were going through as an excuse. They were always going to put their best foot forward.”
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Some say this has been because Bieniemy, as a coordinator, has never called the plays. Some speculate that he doesn’t interview well. One factor has been that as a Kansas City assistant, he’s been disadvantaged by the team making three consecutive appearances in the conference championship — and two in the Super Bowl — during the last three seasons; many jobs have been gone before he is available to take them.
But one thing is for sure: it hasn’t been because of a lack of support from his current employer. Back in January, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid gave yet another ringing endorsement of his longtime assistant coach.
“To be a head coach, if you’re going to survive in this business, you better be honest with the people you deal with — and you better have a plan for them,” Reid told reporters. “Guys want to know where they’re at and where they’re going — and most of us do. And when they don’t have that put in place, then they drift — and then that’s where teams fall apart. So he knows how to do that part — and do it well.”
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