The Playoffs are here!! But soon (Feb. 3rd) the season will be over, and we will immediately turn towards the 2014-2015 season. We will be quick to look at next year's schedule and start predicting Wins & Losses. We will talk about late round draft picks as if they were a steal and how they will play for us for the next 10 years. We will do almost anything, but address the elephant in the room... The Chiefs have a cap problem.
Kansas City $45,620,000 ($35,050,000 in Dead Money)
Dwayne Bowe: $12,000,000 ($16,250,000 in Dead Money)
Eric Berry: $11,620,000 ($5,800,000 in Dead Money)
Tamba Hali: $11,500,000 ($6,000,000 in Dead Money)
Brandon Flowers: $10,500,000 ($7,000,000 in Dead Money)
Denver $44,100,000 ($26,900,000 in Dead Money)
Peyton Manning: $17,500,000 ($22,500,000 in Dead Money)
Champ Bailey: $10,000,000 ($0 in Dead Money)
Ryan Clady: $8,600,000 ($2,400,000 in Dead Money)
Wes Welker: $8,000,000 ($2,000,000 in Dead Money)
San Diego $40,450,000 ($16,100,000 in Dead Money)
Philip Rivers $16,700,000 ($4,500,000 in Dead Money)
Eric Weddle $10,100,000 ($5,200,000 in Dead Money)
Antonio Gates $7,400,000 ($4,700,000 in Dead Money)
Jeromey Clary $6,250,000 ($1,700,000 in Dead Money)
The Chiefs next year will have the most money tied up in their Top 4 Players, taking up more than 1/3 of their available cap. Also, the Chiefs have the most Dead Money in those contracts. Dead Money is basically bonuses that have already been paid, but that have yet to count against any years cap. So if you cut those players you would have all of the dead money count against your cap that year. So not only do we have the most money tied up, we also have the least flexibility.
Also, the Chiefs do not have a QB in their top 4 cap players. This can be viewed as a good thing, because Alex Smith is cheap for how well he plays. But the ugly problem is that he will eventually want a new contract, and it will probably only make the Chiefs Top 4 Cap players look even worse going forward.
It is unlikely that the Chiefs could/would cut any of their top 4 cap players next season. However, Denver could cut Champ Bailey who didn't play most of the year, and save $10M against the cap. San Diego also could let Antonio Gates go with Green playing so well and save $2.7M towards the cap. Each of these teams has players on the downside of their careers that could be let go and make their cap situations even better.
So the other part of the equation is who do each of these teams have to resign next year that will cost them big money. Here is my best guess at this:
The Chiefs only have $3,000,000 in Cap Space heading into 2014. That probably won't even cover the rookies. So it's hard to believe they will sign any of their free agents. Especially considering they are in the last year of Alex Smith's contract and may have to increase his pay after next year.
The Broncos could get rid of grandpa Bailey and sign Decker. They also come into next season $10,600,000 under the cap. So they could resign a lot of other players without losing any of their core.
The Chargers have NO cap space coming into next year. $40,000. But they also do not have any major pieces that HAVE to be resigned. They have some wiggle room in making cap space because they have players who could be cut to make cap room to sign FA and draft picks.
To make this long story short... the Chiefs are in trouble because of some bad contracts. Dwayne Bowe is not a top 10 WR in the NFL, and he's getting paid like a Top 5 WR. That contract is brand new and will hurt this franchise for years to come. Brandon Flowers isn't playing like the Brandon Flowers of old. Maybe he's hurt. But if he doesn't start playing better his contract is just as damaging for the next 3 years.
One last point... the Chiefs could also be hurt by their own success. Justin Houston will eventually want a contract that matches his production. He's INSANELY cheap right now. But he will soon want to be paid like the top notch player that he is.
So let's enjoy the playoffs and our march towards the Lombardi trophy, because come Feb. 3rd the Chiefs are going to have to start making some really tough decisions.