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Problems with the Cap and Predictions on in-house Free Agency

Before the Kansas City Chiefs released Dunta Robinson, they had around $1 Million to work with going into the off-season.  That money would have to be used to resign any free agents the team wants to keep, sign any new free agent they might target from another team and partially for the rookies drafted in this years NFL draft.  I say partially, because the rookie salary cap has its own calculation and its own cap within the teams salary cap.

Currently, the teams is sitting on with a cap space of around $4.25 Million.  They have some free agents they would like to keep, but those players price tag is too rich for the Chiefs to sign.  The biggest names and 2013 salary cap hits are;

  • Branden Albert ($9.8 Million)
  • Tyson Jackson ($7.2 Million)
  • Jon Asamoah ($1.5 Million)
  • Dexter McCluster ($1.4 Million)
  • Kendrick Lewis ($1.3 Million)

There are several other players whose 2013 cap hit was less than $1 Million.  Of the 5 players listed above, 2 of them the Chiefs would like to hang on to, but cannot afford (Albert and McCluster).  I think McClusters replacement has already been signed with CFL Star WR - Weston Dressler.  He has all the same measurables as McCluster and he plays all the skill positions that he does.  Is this an upgrade?  Only time will tell.  For the other 3, their price tag does not justify their production.  Tyson Jackson restructured his contract in 2013 to stay with the team, but realistically, the team is due for an upgrade at the position.  Asamoah and Lewis both had diminished production and playing time in 2013 and either the replacement is currently on the roster or one is needed to be signed either from someplace else or the NFL draft.

Of the smaller cap hits, I think most of them are gone already.  I think a few will be looked at to sign with the team.  Geoff Schwartz replaced Asamoah during the season, and simply outplayed him.  I think the Chiefs will likely resign Schwartz to keep their O-Line intact. I think the Chiefs might also look at retaining Abdullah or Demps.  Both played Safety for them in 2013, but I think Demps offers more in the special teams and thus will get him a contract.  It should also be noted that the Chiefs have a rookie from last year, Sanders Commings, they drafted 2013 coming back from an injury and he will be the overwhelming favorite.

They have 3 key players on the roster that are set to become free agents in 2015 (Rodney Hudson, Justin Houston and Alex Smith)  Houston is set to make $1.5 Million in 2014 with Hudson making $1.1 Million.  The Chiefs will probably sit on their contracts and have them play out the 2014 season before making any moves there.  I believe that Smith will sign a contract extension this year.  While it may not save the team any cap space in 2014, they do lock up their starting QB for the foreseeable future.  There are several other players who have yet to make a significant impact to require a contract extension.  Those players are playing for a break-out year and if they should have it, will earn themselves a much larger check in 2015.

2016 is a different scenario.  Many of the teams current key players have contract that expire in 2016.  This is where the Chiefs need to start looking at now and extending players now at the same time saving money on this year’s salary cap.  There are 4 names and their 2014 cap numbers that stand out are; Berry ($11.6 Million), Hali ($11.5 Million), Charles ($5.25 Million) and D. Johnson ($4.5 Million).  Of those players, only Berry's contract has him making more in 2014 than 2015.  Thus, if he is extended it will save the Chiefs another $1-2 Million in cap space for 2014.

With the limited space available, even with restructuring deals, I don't see the Chiefs making a big splash in free agency this year signing the big name player to come in.  They may actually even look at trading a few key players that had great seasons to help save for the future while trying to bring in younger and cheaper talent.  A few names that come to mind with this are Bowe, D. Johnson and Hali and Berry.  I think Bowe is safe for 1 more season.  If he doesn't have above a marginal season in 2014, I think he will be released in 2015.  It should also be noted that Bowe will turn 30 as the season begins and with most skill position players, hitting the big '3-0' means a dip in production.

Hali had a great season, but keep in mind that he will turn 31 midway through the 2014-15 season.  Having a large cap hit of $11.5 Million is not fun to look at.  The time to trade him would be now, after the 11 sack season he had.  I personally think that Houston is the better of the 2 pass rushers and maybe the Chiefs will think that they might be able to find someone to help fill the void.  His trade could potentially save the team an additional $5 Million in cap space.

Derrick Johnson is another potential casualty of the small cap in 2014.  Johnson will turn 32 midway through the 2014-15 season.  While he is a very good talent and a great team leader, his age will eventually catch up to him and his production will slip.  He led the team in tackles in 2013 and that is with missing his 1st game in 4 years.  If he is traded, he could potentially free up an additional $4.5 Million in cap space.

I think the Chiefs have some very difficult decisions to make this coming off-season.  They are starting in a hole with a limited budget.  They have several aging key players that are either on the back end of their careers or are very close to it. Nothing personal against any of the current players, I would love to see this team remain intact for another season, but this is reality and time is the one thing in life than cannot be outrun or evaded.  It catches us all.  The average length of a NFL player career with 80+ starts is around 10-11 years.  Johnson is entering season 10 with Hali at 9.  They have been great players throughout their careers, but if this team is serious about winning and winning now and they may have to cut ties with some fan favorites and get younger and faster in a hurry.

-Joseph Yslas ---- Follow me on Twitter @J_Salsy

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