As it is every year, the Kansas City Chiefs spending has been a topic of conversation during free agency. At the beginning of the free agency period, some folks wanted the Chiefs to go after a big name but, as expected, they stuck to value signings and didn't overpay early in free agency.
We know the Chiefs philosophy is to put a priority on hanging onto their own guys and finding value free agents. That's why you sign a guy like FB Le'Ron McClain when he's been on the market for a week. Same with NT Kelly Gregg and OT Jared Gaither. Low cost guys with a potentially high reward.
The KC Star reported that, as of last week, the Chiefs salary cap number was at $99.5 million and the cash number was at $119 million. I've argued that the Chiefs low cap space is a very good thing considering they added a few key pieces and, outside of DE Shaun Smith, didn't really lose anything.
The salary cap number and the room the Chiefs have has some people wondering why they're not spending. The key difference to remember is the salary cap isn't actual cash.
The contract the New England Patriots gave to G Logan Mankins is a good example of the difference between salary cap numbers and cash numbers. He will receive $21.5 million in CASH in year one but his CAP number is only $4.8 million. The ability to maneuver around the salary cap like that and manipulate the numbers to look how you want to look is a reason why we need to remember that a low salary cap number is a good strategic move.
For example, last year the Chiefs signed LB Derrick Johnson to a long-term deal. With an uncapped year last year, the Chiefs gave DJ a pro-rated $19.475 million base salary -- in 2010 alone. (By the way, DJ's deal isn't included in the widely reported $84 million cap number the Chiefs had last year.) Why did the Chiefs do that? Answer: salary cap. They gave DJ a lot of money up front, which makes him happy, and they afforded themselves salary cap space in the future, which makes the team happy. It's a win-win.
I thought this was a good example of how we should be looking at the salary cap. In the next couple weeks, when teams go from 90 roster to players down to 53, the Chiefs will need some space in case any players they want to target hit the market.