by Paul Wanecski
It should come as no surprise that the Kansas City Chiefs started the New Year by releasing two wide receivers after having 0 touchdown completions to that position all season. The Chiefs are also looking at less than $4 million in salary cap space for 2015, so they have plenty of work to do freeing up enough money to sign a draft class, address free agency and build a competitive roster at the same time.
The Kansas City Chiefs need to strike now. While they have an aging quarterback, an under-achieving offensive line, near no wide receivers and they are have lost the best cornerbacks on the roster, they have a heavy schedule to address this offseason. Not only that, one of the best outside linebackers in the league is without a contract. Andy Reid has done an amazing job, yet again, of figuring out how to make it all work. This offseason will be critical as the mistakes they make will ripple for the next several seasons.
QB Alex Smith cannot play under this contract; his cap figure is just too high. While he still has plenty of gas left in the tank to hold on to a starting job for another 2-3 seasons, he enters this year with an unmanageable $15.6 million cap hit. While converting base salary into bonus money will thin out some of his cap hit this year, the snowball will just get bigger at the tail end of the contract. The Chiefs will have to make a decision as to which season they take this on the chin.
Releasing WR Dwayne Bowe would save the team around $5 million. While they have spent the last week releasing other players at this position, the reality is they need the cap space. Bowe would be lucky to get a $5 million offer on the open market. His best option would be to restructure his deal at a lower salary.
TE Travis Kelce showed his skills as an offensive weapon last year. His emergence makes TE Anthony Fasano a luxury they cannot afford. Releasing saves $2 million.
QB Chase Daniels has played well the last two seasons behind Smith but his contract is just too expensive to retain for a player you hope never has to hit the field. Kansas City has a stable of quarterbacks in Terrelle Pryor, Aaron Murray, and Tyler Bray. $3.8 million saved.
DE Mike DeVito and LB Joe Mays will also be shown the door, saving $7 million.
A circumstance could arise where the team is just not able to create enough cap space where they have to entertain the idea of cutting LB Tamba Hali. If they found a trade partner, his new team would be taking a player who will be 32 this season, on the last year of his deal and carrying almost $9 million in salary. While this is unlikely, as the team really doesn’t have the depth to have to address another position, they might be able to negotiate an extension but his deal would not come before Houston’s.
It is impossible to predict if DB Eric Berry will be able to return. While his tragic circumstances could be discussed at length, his contract could be handled in several ways. They will not cut him. He could revert to the Non-Football-Injury list. The team could look to split his salary across two years, lessening his impact on this year. It would be a shock that he is paid nothing.
OLB Justin Houston has all the leverage, being one of the best players in the NFL at his position. It would be shock if he wasn’t given the franchise tag, as the team and Houston were unable to work out a contract extension all last season.
C Rodney Hudson will most likely be the best free agent center on the market. The team does not have the salary cap room to resign him, but they need to make some.
G Mike McGlynn was awful last year. Kansas City can replace that production at a minimum salary. He will be released.
The free agent class is abounding with offensive line options. The Chiefs will have to be affordable and selective. They are out of the Orlando Franklin sweepstakes. You can basically take the top 5 offensive lineman and just cross them off the board, the team just does not have the space to sign them.
If Dwayne Bowe is released, WR Da’Rick Rogers becomes the default primary receiver. While he has seen 3 teams in two seasons (previously cut by the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts, both of disciplinary reasons), he has the skills to explode this season. They will need to find 2 more free agent options, one will be an injury flier on a player and the second will be a player whom the team feels was buried on a depth chart or was misplaced in a system. An affordable player like Andre Holmes could be had for a minimal investment.
T Eric Fisher, the former 1st overall selection 2 years ago, has been a major disappointment. While it can take some time for tackles to mature in the NFL, things are not looking great across the offensive line. T Andrus Peat (Stanford) would be a great option to lock down the right tackle position and give them an alternative if Fisher continues to struggle.
Depending on how aggressive the teams ahead of them get at the cornerback position could dictate if they take a swing to improve the depleted secondary. DB PJ Williams (Florida State) has split a lot of draft analysts, as some see him as the best in the class. The free agent market for cornerbacks is pretty poor and Sean Smith has proven he is not a number 1.
Considering on how much space they can clear along with the contract negotiations with Hudson, they may need to look into the 3rd or 4th round for a center.
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