From the FanPosts -Joel
We have hit that point in the season where the salary cap begins to loom large. Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports just presented a list of where teams are at with regard to the coming salary cap. This will have many implications for the Chiefs with regard to the 2014 season. Kirwan stated the following about the Chiefs:
Kansas City Chiefs (68, $6.8 million over): The Chiefs have no dead money tied up in Alex Smith, so they can do a deal with him to get back to at least even in the salary cap. They also have a few solid young players, like Eric Berry and Tamba Hali, with whom they could convert salary to signing bonus and make cap space.
Source: CBS Sports
Now, most of us have heard that the Chiefs are actually under the cap. Kirwan doesn't identify where he took his numbers but we can see that he is counting 68 players under contract. Typically, only the top 51 salaries count toward the cap. If we consider only the top 51, Overthecap.com shows us that we are under the cap.
Kansas City Chiefs 2014 Salary Cap
Est. Salary Cap Space:$3,092,444
Offensive Spend: 34 Players $56,850,364
Defensive Spend: 30 Players $64,849,137
Specials Spend: 3 Players $7,103,750
Source: KC Chiefs 2014 Salary Cap
Now three million in cap space is, for all intents and purposes, up against the max. There isn't a lot you can do with three million. So we will need to free up some more space in order to continue to bring depth to the roster like Dorsey wants to do. Dorsey has three tools at his disposal to use to maximize his cap flexibility. You've probably heard of all three, however, one typically is more well-known then the others. First and most well-known is the cut. Right now, cutting a player is at the top of the news cycle. Dorsey has already wielded the cost-cutting sword on Dunta Robinson, saving the Chiefs some $3 million. Typically, a player is cut when his bloated salary doesn't match his value to the team.
Most times the player's skills have diminished, due to age or injury. Sometimes, they no longer fit within the system the team employes. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, just gave a snapshot of which players he guesses might be on the chopping block. I found this statement rather interesting:
Dallas Cowboys: DE DeMarcus Ware, WR Miles Austin
Ware is coming off a lost season and his production is declining. Plus, the Cowboys (as always) are in a massive cap bind. Cutting him saves $13M. I also can't find a way that Austin returns, given his negligible role in recent years (he is set to make $5.5M).
Source: NFL Salary Cap Cuts
Jerry Jones loves DeMarcus Ware and he knows that his production is down this year. However, Jerry is a rather sentimental sort when it comes to his players (see Tony Romo). So you figure that rather then cutting Ware, he would like to retain him. However, he doesn't want to extend the contract. If the Cowboys restructure Ware, they could save $12 million on this year's cap. If his play doesn't get better they can cut him in 2015 and save $6.488 million on the 2015 cap. Now, Dallas is in cap hell so saving $12 million hardly puts a dent in their salary cap overage but you get the point. This is important for KC because the Chiefs have several players who are in the top 10 in the league for salary cap at their position. Let's look at the 3-4 OLB top cap hits for 2014:
Name Team Cap number DeMarcus Ware Cowboys $16,003,750 Lamarr Woodley Steelers $13,590,000 Terrell Suggs Ravens $12,400,000 Tamba Hali Chiefs $11,464,706 Clay Matthews Packers $10,943,750
Source: Over the Cap Top NFL Contracts
We've already talked about DeMarcus Ware. The Steelers, have a very interesting situation that is somewhat similar to KC. Woodley has been a very good OLB for several years but his cap number is very high and they have a young OLB in Jason Worilds who is scheduled to be a free agent. Their GM Kevin Colbert made what might be a telling statement with regard to what teams have to consider with aging players and up and comers.
Colbert said that it’s possible to keep LaMarr Woodley and re-sign unrestricted free agent Jason Worilds from a salary cap standpoint, but he also acknowledged Woodley having missed 14 games over the last three seasons because of injuries is a concern.
"LaMarr has had some durability concerns over the past couple of seasons. They have been legitimate injuries," said Colbert. "Any time a player has an injury, if it extends beyond the season, it does become a concern. It has to be, because if the player is not on the field he isn’t helping us. But it would be a concern for any player who has missed extended time."
Woodley, if cut pre-June 1, costs the Steelers $580,000. If he is restructured, he provides about $4.7 million in cap savings. If he is extended, it is projected he would save around $5.7 million on the cap. If he is a post- June 1 cut, he would save the Steelers $8 million. So you can see the various options a team has. Which option is chosen depends quite a bit on what the team needs at the time and in the future. If the Steelers determine that Woodley's injuries are going to make him a shell of the player he once was, they may decide to cut him post June 1 to maximize their 2014 cap savings provided they determine it won't too negatively impact their 2015 cap. If they determine that Woodley will provide a decent return for the team then they may want to restructure which still leaves them the option to cut Woodley in 2015 with a minimal cap burden.
So what does this mean for KC? With the three players preceding Hali on this list, all either on the chopping block or prime candidates for restructuring, you have to think that KC will at least talk with Tamba. Restructuring Tamba's contract would provide the Chiefs with about $3.7 million in cap space. Because 2015 is the last year of Tamba's contract, a restructure would more than likely be his chance to put up big numbers to earn one last contract. The reality is that his cap number in 2015 would rise making him a likely cut unless he plays himself into a contract extension. So a restructure would effectively put Tamba on a one year contract.
In LaCanfora's article he also mentioned one of the great players of our times and how his time in New England may be coming to an end.
New England Patriots: NT Vince Wilfork
Considering he missed most of 2013, his advancing age and the Pats reaching the AFC title game without him, will the beloved veteran actually make the $7.5M he's due in 2014, at a cap hit of $11.6M? Given all their needs on offense, it's a valid question.
Source: NFL Salary Cap Cuts
This leads us to the final tool in the GM's arsenal for salary cap management: The extension.
Just as the Patriots have the decision to make with an aging Superstar, the Chiefs have the opportunity to do this with two players entering their primes. Alex Smith and Eric Berry. Extending Smith can probably save the Chiefs $6 million toward the cap and Berry could probably save that much or more. Now this all depends on the length of the contracts, signing bonuses, etc. Smith and Wilfork are in similar situations because they are entering the last year of their contracts. Berry has two years left.
Looking at all of theses options, you quickly realize that Dorsey has several options. I don't think we'll see a lot of pre-June 1 cuts on the Chiefs and post- June 1 cuts will only make sense after the various waves of free agency and the draft. Restructuring and extensions, on the other hand, will probably be the tools of choice. This, however, leads us to the longer term picture.
Source: KC Chiefs 2015 Salary Cap
One of the first things we notice is that 2015's salary cap has a similar amount of money committed to only 36 players. 2014 has approximately $10 million more committed to 67 players. Bowe, Hali and Flowers account for approximately $38 million toward the cap in 2015. You have to think that the Chiefs are already planning that 2015 will be the last year for these three Chiefs in KC. You can't commit that amount of capital to aging players who are already starting to show signs of slowing down. This is what doomed Hank Stram's Chiefs, he stayed with players well past their primes.
This also brings us to the importance of the draft and development of our younger players. Dorsey has done a good job of upgrading the bottom half of the roster. Now, can the coaching staff take the next step and develop guys like Cooper, Commings, Kush, Catapano, McGrath, Parker, Fisher, and Davis? Dorsey's miss on Braden Wilson was compensated by the trade of CB Javier Arenas for FB Anthony Sherman and his waiver wire prowess.
I believe Dorsey and Reid have probably got a good idea of where the rosters needs the most help and who can fill it. Cutting Dunta as quickly as they did shows that when Dorsey recognizes a change is needed, he acts. Dorsey gave us a glimpse of this in his end of season Q&A at KCChiefs.com
"It happens automatically, because that’s the way that I’m wired and that’s the way everybody in the personnel department is wired (and) the way the coaching staff is wired (and) now it’s time for us to begin to create a framework and a foundation of that plan. We’ve been working on that and now we have to begin to solidify those plans, so when it’s time to act, we’ll be prepared and ready and we’ll make sure that we’ve done our research, we’ve done our due diligence and we’ll be able to accomplish what we’ve set out to do."
Source: John Dorsey End of Season Q&A
Based on how Dorsey pulled last season together, I have to believe that we are going to be in for some surprises. So as the combine gets rolling this week and we all debate which Safety, WR, DE, or other player caught our attention, keep in mind that Dorsey is a now and long term guy. Because of injuries to our rookie class last year we didn't get to see this in action much. Yet, pay close attention to Dorsey's statements:
"Foundations can be described in different ways by different people; I believe the foundation of a football team is on the offensive and defensive line. When you say foundation to me, that’s what I believe in. Have we gone out and tried to build a deep roster, yeah, and we’ll continue to do that, but, every season is uniquely different and has a uniquely different set of questions that need to be answered and addressed and we're going to do that."
"From what we have on our roster, yeah, but the beauty of this whole thing is we get a second shot now, from a personnel standpoint to go through the draft, to be selective in free agency to get some more players that can create competition within this roster and see if we can get to the next level in 2014. All along, our objective was to get guys that are competitive, guys that like football, guys who are the good locker room guys; I think the guys who are here understand now, the objective and the task at hand."
Source: John Dorsey End of Season Q&A
That last statement should be most encouraging. No "right 53" just "create competition...and see if we can get to the next level in 2014". So keep that in mind as you watch the Combine.
Ask yourself, can this guy help us get to the next level and can he replace an aging, higher priced salary? Because that's how winning franchises are designed.