The Chiefs exercised their fifth-year option of left tackle Eric Fisher, the team announced Monday.
The Chiefs had until Monday to execute the option, which should approach $12 million for 2017. The option is guaranteed for injury, which means he’d be paid even if he were to be seriously hurt in 2016.
If Fisher doesn’t get hurt this season but fails to live up to the team’s expectations this fall, the Chiefs could cut him at any time before the first day of the new league year in March 2017 and eliminate his cap charge completely.
The move does not come as much of a surprise after the club did not sign a swing tackle in free-agency, although free-agent addition Mitchell Schwartz — one of the best right tackles in football — played on the left side in college. The Chiefs also drafted a college left tackle in the fourth round in Cincinnati’s Parker Ehinger, but he’s also played inside at college and needs to get stronger.
Dorsey said at the Combine that the Chiefs have had contract discussions with Fisher’s representative, and would continue to have them going forward.
“We believe in his development,” Dorsey said at the time. “I think it’s important for the culture of the organization.”
The Chiefs can lower Fisher’s cap number in 2017 by agreeing to an extension with him, though such an agreement could potentially be lucrative for the 25-year-old Fisher. For comparison’s sake, Lane Johnson — a right tackle who was taken four spots behind Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 — agreed to a six-year contract extension in January worth up to $63 million.
“I see myself on a steady incline,” Fisher said at the start of offseason workouts in mid-April. “I’m looking to pick up where I left off, continue to grow and stay on a steady rise throughout my career. If I can do that 10 more years, however many more years, I’m looking forward to it and really looking forward to a great season this year.”
The jump for quick-footed 6-foot-7, 320-pounder from Central Michigan to the NFL has not been easy. The speed of the game has been an adjustment, and so was the aggressiveness.
The rash of injuries he dealt with his first two seasons — including a shoulder injury that kept him from building up his upper body — didn’t help, either.
“That shoulder surgery is quite a long recovery,” said Fisher, who dealt with the consequences of that his second season. “This year felt that much better. I feel great right now, I feel real strong, nothing’s holding me back. Really looking forward to the next 10 months.”
Fisher also ramped up his aggressiveness last season, which showed against the Steelers in mid-October, when he was flagged for defending a teammate who was getting his leg twisted in a pile by a defender.
And against the Texans in the playoffs, he was caught delivering a shot to an on-his-knees J.J. Watt that caused the imposing Watt to leave the game. When Fisher was shown on the Jumbotron at Reliant Stadium after the play, the Texans’ crowd booed and hissed. Fisher responded with a wave and a keep-it-coming gesture.
When asked recently if that game was a turning point in his career — especially after his toughness was questioned when he unexpectedly sat in the season opener against Watt and the Texans due to a sprained ankle — Fisher grinned.
“Well, it seems to have done that with the media,” he said with a laugh. “But yeah, I thought that was a real fun game for me. It almost seemed like a little bit of a turning point in my career.
“It was nice to get going — especially in the playoffs, round one. And then (winning) the first playoff game in quite some time around here, I thought that was a big accomplishment.”