News broke two weeks ago that the NFL and its players reached an agreement on the salary cap structure for the soon-to-be collective bargaining agreement. John Clayton pretty much sums it up here, saying that the new Salary Cup will be around $120 million. It has also been reported that there will be hard salary floor in place, meaning the Chiefs, which danced around the bottom of the league in player salaries the last few years, will have to spend a certain amount of cash to hit that figure. That figure is expected to be within 85 and 90% of the salary cap, resulting in somewhere between $102 million and $108 million. According to Pat Yasinkas' report from Febuary, the Chiefs currently have around $75 million invested in players for the 2011 season. So what does that mean for our Chiefs? (Note: Tamba Hali's franchize tag is not included, so add another $10.5 million)
I read an article yesterday which got me thinking about our exact salary-cap status. It basically states that because we need a Nose Tackle, need to spend cash under the new CBA and Aubrayo Franklin is the best one available, this is a match made in heaven. The article also says that we could front-load the Franklin contract to have more flexibility going forward, ala Matt Cassel's contract (Which is actually not true, at least from a salary-cap standpoint, since his salary is increasing every year and the big signing bonus is pro-rated equally for each year). I did a little research on possible free agents last month, and I came to the conclusion that while most fans want Aybrayo Franklin, there are obvious question marks. While I do think that the Chiefs are gonna be in the mix for Franklin, I don't want them to just throw money around for salary-cap purposes, but rather spend it wisely.
How can we spend money to get over the salary-floor? Well, first of all, take care of players already on your team in line for extensions. The franchize tag for Tamba actually helps us out this year to get us over the minimum, but I would rather have him locked up long-term. I would say DeMarcus Ware's 7 year, $79 million ($40 million guaranteed) could be be a starting point, and with the salary-cap increasing, that number could even be topped in a potential deal. Brandon Flowers will be a free agent next offseason, and if his play continues to get better like it has the last couple of years, he could command big money. My bet is that Johnathan Joseph's free agent contract this offseason will be close to the contract Flowers will get this year or the next, hopefully from the Chiefs. While Nnamdi Asomugha will command upwards of $15 million, Joseph will likely settle for a contract somewhere between $8 and $12 million per year. Add Brandon Carr to that list of players needy of an extension. While I can't possibly predict what he will command, recent contract for CB2s, like Leigh Bodden or Andre Goodman's, were $22 million and $20 million for 4 years. While these 2 are a little older than Carr, maybe Cedric Griffin's 5-year, $28.5 million contract is comparable. Add an increase in salary-cap and Carr could ask for $7 million annually.
On offense, Dwayne Bowe will be a free agent next year. While it is not written in stone that he'll be back, my money is on the Chiefs retaining D-Bowe for the foreseeable future. Again it is hard to predict exact numbers. Braylon Edwards' future contract could be used as a comparison by Bowe's agent. Depending on his market, the highly inconsistent Edwards could come close to Brandon Marshall's $47.5 ($12.5 million guaranteed), 5 year contract with the Dolphins. Hell, if Bowe has another outstanding campaign, he could crush the $10 million a year barrier easily on the open market, and with less off-field trouble than Marshall his guaranteed money will be significantly higher.
Also keep in mind that only one franchize tag can be applied to to these players next year, and with increased service years could come an increased price tag. In addition, Brian Waters will also be a free agent next year, and the 2013 free agent list includes Branden Albert, Dustin Colquitt and Glenn Dorsey. I think Scott Pioli has his work cut out for him.
Coming back to the Salary-cap, these contract extensions would add up as following (in million $):
Hali: + ~ 10.5 or more for extension
Flowers: + ~ 9
Carr: + ~ 6
Bowe: + ~ 6
Adding these increases in salaries to our current salary would result in $106 million, right around the salary-floor. Deduct minor free agent losses, add possible re-signings of Casey Wiegmann, Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith and also future contracts of our draft picks and possible undrafted free agents (check out tomahawk's great read here), and we are at about $110 million. Maybe this number is too high for this year, but it would definitely be around that figure in 2012.
My point is that while it looks as if we have boat loads of money to spend right now, looking a little further down the road proves this is not entirely the case. I would say that we have one impact free agent signing available, and Pioli will try to spend that money wisely.
Now this might be subjective on my part, but I'd rather take a younger free agent with less risk than the aforementioned Franklin. While his ceiling might not be as high as Franklin's, Matt Roth would definitely be an impact signing. An absolute beast as a run-stopper, he can also pressure the quarterback and be the perfect bookend for Tamba. And while Franklin will be 31 at the start of the 2011 season, Roth will be 28 until October.
But, don't get me wrong. I would absolutely love a highly motivated Franklin. On the other hand, remember that certain positions have more value than others. Even though the Nose has become a more respected position in recent years, I believe OLBs/ pass rushers are more critical to a team's success (maybe it's just because of the fact that my pass rushers in Madden are more productive than my Nose Tackles?). Throw in the fact that Romeo Crennel's best Browns team in 2007 had a Nose Tackle named Shaun Smith and the fact that we got by with Edwards the last two years and you get a feeling why my money is on the Chiefs spending on other needs.
What do you guys think? Take care of our own players first? Or pull a Yankee-like offseason and be aggressive? Give me your opinion.
Quick disclaimer: I did this based on the numbers out there on the internet. Some might be wrong. We also don't know exact numbers of the salary-cap and the new rookie wages, yet.