Adding Context To Criticism Of Chiefs Spending Habits

Over the past few weeks and months we''ve been hearing from various folks in the media (and some fans) that the Kansas City Chiefs and, specifically, Clark Hunt, are cheap. The NFL lockout has made us less-than-sympathetic to the owners' plight and the cutting of employee pay combined with the Chiefs very low salary cap numbers over the last few years have set a few people off.

Ah, but only if it were that easy. I noticed a report from Soren Petro of 810 WHB citing salary cap numbers for the 2010 season in a story titled, "Will Chiefs And Clark Hunt Spend?" 

"To be at the bottom of the NFL salary ladder you would have to rank 32nd in the NFL in payroll and the Chiefs have managed to avoid that distinction by finishing 31st in each of the last two seasons," Petro writes on 810WHB.com. "Under Scott Pioli the Chiefs have spent roughly $84-million each of the last two seasons."

(Editor's note: So we're not singling out Petro here, we should also mention that his competition, Nick Wright of 610 Sports, has also been hitting the Chiefs hard for their spending habits. He just hasn't packaged his thoughts into a blog that makes it easy for me to cut-and-paste.]

A lot of folks, especially in the Kansas City area, have harped on this, which is fine...but there needs to be some context. It's OK to say that, according to the salary cap numbers, they've spent $84 million and, according to the salary cap numbers, they're second to last in the NFL in spending. 

But a league source with knowledge of the numbers has confirmed that, when it comes to spending real money, the Chiefs are actually much closer to the middle of the pack than the bottom. In fact, the Chiefs spent well over $100 million -- cash --  in 2010, which is quite a bit more than the $84.5 million salary cap number (if there were a salary cap) that's been widely reported.

That salary cap numbers cited, which were first reported in September of 2010, don't take into account several mid-season extensions for the Chiefs, including LB Andy Studebaker, LB Derrick Johnson and RB Jamaal Charles. In DJ's case alone, his new deal sky-rocketed his 2010 base salary from about two-and-a-half million to nearly $20 million (pro-rated for the last eight weeks of the season). 

So it's important to note the distinction between the salary cap vs. actual money spent. Things like bonuses, which are paid to the players, can be pro-rated so that the entire bonus isn't reflected in the salary cap. I won't go too deep into boring salary cap talk but suffice to say the cap numbers can be prodded and poked to say different things.

That's really the crux of this. The Chiefs have a number of young players on the roster that will likely be getting rather large extensions soon. For example, they've worked on long-term deals for LB Tamba Hali and CB Brandon Flowers. It's not like they're not trying to sign their own guys. If the Chiefs weren't winning, and they were letting their own free agents walk, I'd have a problem with their spending habits. But the fact is, as of 2010, they are winning and, as of 2010, they are signing, or trying to sign their own free agents. As we've learned over the years, winning solves a lot of problems.

As for the cutting of employees' pay, I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. Ideally, the NFL lockout is solved in the next few weeks and those employees see their money reimbursed. I think rooted in the Chiefs' decision to make this move is some logic and reason, but that doesn't mean we have to agree with it. I'll do my best to dig up more information on that if the lockout isn't solved soon and articulate how I feel on that subject.

For now, though, I'm resting my hopes on the owners and players solving the NFL lockout.

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