Much has been made about the limited amount of cap space the Chiefs have available for signing free agents and their own players this year. Next year will not be much better, but we can hope that another big bump in the salary cap and some restructuring will allow us to re-sign Alex Smith and Justin Houston. The quarterback and stud pass rusher are almost locks to get signed, but take a look at the decisions Reid and Dorsey will have to make the following year.
Notable 2016 Chiefs Free Agents
Tamba Hali - One of my favorite players who should still be an above average player at his position even though he will be approaching an age of 32. We can hope for a team friendly contract to potentially finish with the team that drafted him, but some say he may not make it through 2015 without a pay cut. Probably will command around an 8 million dollars a year contract similar to the Julius Peppers/Jared Allen deals this offseason.
Eric Berry - Certainly one of the top players at his position in his prime years that will probably be in line for a similar contract, if not a raise. Berry is a valuable piece to our defensive puzzle as well documented in this great post by citadelchief, but top safeties still seem like a luxury if forced to make a decision on top players. His contract will probably average in the 9 million dollar range.
Derrick Johnson - One of the more underrated players at his position and, surprisingly, the 15th highest paid inside linebacker in the NFL. Johnson will be entering free agency at close to 33, but should still be playing at a relatively high level. He should probably get a raise on a contract that may not have as much guaranteed money which would probably be somewhere in the 7 million a year range. Like Hali, may take a little bit less to stay with the Chiefs for the rest of his career, but will still have plenty of interest.
Donald Stephenson - Call me crazy, but I didn't notice a big drop off in play when Donald Stephenson filled in for Branden Albert over the last couple of seasons, and he was definitely better than Eric Fisher last year when filling in for him. I think the Chiefs should try to extend him sooner rather than later to get a discount from some guaranteed money right now. He is a starting caliber offensive tackle that has the versatility to play both sides. I would think he would be viewed similarly to Anthony Collins who just signed a contract averaging 6 million dollars a year with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Dontari Poe - This one is a must for our defensive scheme to operate how it should, and may be the situation that forces the team to move on from some of the older players that are still playing at a high level. Retaining Poe, Houston, and Berry would give the Chiefs a player in their prime at every level of the defense who would be in the conversation for the best player at their position in the entire league. It is hard to know what he would command, but I would think a contract averaging in the 8 million dollars a year range at a minimum would be a good starting point.
Jamaal Charles - This is an absolute must and I have a feeling that Jamaal is going to want to get paid. Many would argue that running back contracts are going to be dropping as their role continues to diminish, but anyone who watched a Chiefs game last year knows that JC's role did not diminish at all. Charles signed a contract that is currently paying 10th among NFL running backs behind the likes of Jonathan Stewart. He may not get Adrian Peterson money, but he should be able to get a contract in the 8 or 9 million a year, and will become the greatest running back to ever play for the Chiefs.
I have no idea what will happen with changes to the level of play by these players or salary cap numbers, but if the numbers I have estimated are anywhere close to correct, the Chiefs will need to come up with 46 million in cap space to keep these players in the Red and Gold. They will also still likely have big commitments to Alex Smith, Justin Houston, and Dwayne Bowe already on the books. On a good note, the Chiefs only have 53 million commited to players for the 2016 season, so it is possible that the Chiefs could retain all of the players mentioned above.