Kansas City Chiefs' Release of Brandon Flowers Forces Sean Smith into Spotlight

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Kansas City Chiefs' Release of Brandon Flowers Forces Sean Smith into Spotlight
Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

With a single farewell tweet, the Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Flowers announced his release from the team that drafted him in the second round from Virginia Tech six years ago.

The six-year veteran has been a mainstay on the Chiefs defense through three different regimes. Flowers was drafted by former Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson and head coach Herm Edwards in 2008 with the 35th overall pick. He then went on to survive the roller coaster that was the Scott Pioli and Todd Haley era and finally played under current GM John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid during their first year in Kansas City. 

Through the changes in schemes and leadership, Flowers has done it all. His career stats, courtesy of NFL.com, show that in six years, he's amassed 374 tackles, two sacks and 17 interceptions. His best year statistically was his second year as a pro in 2009 in which he picked off five passes from opposing quarterbacks and complied 65 total tackles.

Despite the fact that Flowers had a bit of a down year, he made his first Pro Bowl and was a huge part of a dominant Chiefs defense during the first half of 2014. Thus, it was quite the surprise to many when Flowers was unceremoniously cut from the Chiefs on Friday the 13th. The move left many Chiefs fans and analysts alike wondering "what's next?" for the Chiefs defense, especially considering the sharp decline the secondary suffered at the end of the 2013 season.

In the wake of the Flowers cut, the Chiefs' official website shows no less than 13 players on their roster with a designation of "CB" or "DB." Of those players, a couple will likely play safety exclusively and won't take a cornerback roster spot. Removing them from the equation, the Chiefs will likely keep five cornerbacks on the final 53-man roster.

But the question remains: Who will step up and fill that No. 1 cornerback role for the Chiefs? 

The smart money is on Sean Smith.

Despite his recent off-the-field antics involving a charge for drinking and driving, Sean Smith will make the Chiefs roster in August. The main reason is he's a solid cornerback who fits the Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's scheme. The second reason, and likely a bit more obvious, is his contract does not lend itself to cutting him.

According to overthecap.com, Smith is due $3.45 million in guaranteed money this year as well as the prorated signing bonus he received when he inked his three-year deal during the 2013 offseason. Even though his cap hit is only $5.75 million this year, should the Chiefs cut him now, they'll have to pay him his full salary, plus they'll eat a cap penalty equal to Smith's bonus payment for next season. 

Essentially, if the Chiefs cut Smith, they'll undo the work they just did by releasing Flowers.

It's not good business, and it's not going to happen.

Since we know Smith will be a Chief in 2014, taking a look at his stats last year shows that he really should be on the team. Not only that, unless a dark horse moves his way to the front, Smith is the most talented cornerback still on the roster.

Perhaps the biggest play Smith made in 2013 was a 101-yard pick-six during the Chiefs' Week 9 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. After the game, former Bills receiver Stevie Johnson made some harsh comments towards Smith on the team's official website. Johnson claimed Smith "almost fell, and he basically fell into an interception and that was it." However, in reviewing the play, it appeared that Smith was able to diagnose the play and put himself in position to make the play.

Courtesy NFL Rewind - Notes and markings via Jason Seibel
3rd and Goal - Goal line defense

As the play began, Smith made contact with Johnson. In rewatching the play, there is no evidence of Smith almost falling, as Johnson claimed in his postgame interview, but more of Smith jamming the opposing receiver at the line while maintaining a constant watch on Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel's eyes.

Courtesy NFL Rewind - Notes and markings are via Jason Seibel

Even though Smith let Johnson get open in the back of the end zone, he knew the play wasn't going to Johnson. The play was always going to be a quick slant to Bills receiver T.J. Graham. By watching Tuel's eyes, Smith was able to jump the pass and take the interception the distance back to the Chiefs end zone.

Courtesy NFL Rewind - Notes and markings are via Jason Seibel

The play is significant, not only because of its stand-alone value, but because it was a game changer in this Week 9 contest. The Chiefs offense was unable to get anything going during this game, and it was left to the defense to put the team on its back and win the game. Smith making this play when he did not only swung the point differential—tying the game at 10 when the Bills were about to go up 17-3—but also propelled the team to eventually win the game.

With every veteran that is cut, another player has to step up and fill the void. The young Chiefs defense—especially the secondary—needs leadership. With the departure of Flowers, it will now fall squarely between the "2" and the "7" on Sean Smith's back during the 2014 season. He had better be ready.

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