The Kansas City Chiefs are between a rock and hard place when it comes to their 2015 finances. The Chiefs need to get more bang for their buck in 2015 but they'll need to shed some key contributors to do so.
Joel Corry of CBS Sports projects the salary cap to be around $142 million next year and, per Corry, the Chiefs would have $400,000 in cap space. The NFLPA salary cap report states Kansas City currently has $2.92M in space, which could be carried over into 2015.
The Chiefs have a number of key free agents set to hit the market, including Justin Houston and Rodney Hudson. With limited cap space the Chiefs may have to make some tough decisions on some players in order to keep others. Here's a look at a few of those decisions that could be coming.
(The salary cap estimates are from Overthecap.com)
WR Dwayne Bowe (Cap Number: $14M, Savings Post Jun 1: $11M)
Bowe looks like he has hit a wall. His production hasn't matched up with his cap number. The Chiefs best interest is to designate him a post-June 1 cut and use the savings towards another receiver or offensive lineman. Bowe needs to find an offense that can utilize him in the slot as a possession receiver.
OLB Tamba Hali (Cap Number: $11.964M, Potential Savings: $9M)
This will be a tough choice for the Chiefs. Hali provides tremendous leadership. He helped groom Justin Houston and spent a great deal of time passing on his knowledge to Dee Ford. Hali has had a great career in Kansas City but father time has reared its ugly head in the last few weeks of the season. The time has likely come to go in a different direction. Houston is likely ready to take over the ROLB spot while Ford needs to see steady playing time at LOLB. The savings needs to go to Justin Houston's contract extension.
QB Alex Smith Restructure (Cap Number: $15.6M, Base Savings: $8.175M)
Alex Smith is locked in with the Chiefs until the end of the 2016 season. As Joel Corry point out, when Smith signed his contract in late August. $30M of that deal became guaranteed at the signing. On the third day of the 2015 league year, Smith's $14.1M base salary becomes guaranteed for the 2016 season. If the Chiefs need some wiggle room for the salary cap, they could approach him about turning $8.175M of his base salary into bonuses. They would free up some cap room for this year. The downside is those bonuses would be pushed out into future years.
QB Chase Daniel (Cap Number: $4.8M, Potential Savings: $3.8M)
Daniel served his purpose in Kansas City. He gave the Chiefs a veteran quarterback who was familiar with the offense. He gave Andy Reid two veterans who could grasp the system and teach it to the rest of their teammates. Daniel provided a good to work with Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray in the meeting rooms. The Chiefs have set themselves up to move on from Daniel in 2015 if they chose to do so.
TE Anthony Fasano (Cap Number: $4.225M, Potential Savings: $1.975M)
Fasano doesn't necessarily provide the Chiefs with a ton of savings by cutting him. His age is starting to show on the football field. If another veteran were to come available it could put his job at risk
WR Donnie Avery (Cap Number: $4.050M, Potential Savings: $3.550M)
Avery has had an issue with staying healthy during his tenure in Kansas City. He provided much needed speed for this offense but needs to be on the field so they can utilize it. Avery sparingly saw playing time after the fumble against the Broncos. Albert Wilson began to get more reps in his spot which has led to the writing on the wall for Avery's time in Kansas City.
WR AJ Jenkins (Cap Number: $1.337M, Potential Savings: $1.337M)
The Chiefs can move on from the Baldwin/Jenkins trade with no dead money on the books. Jenkins wasn't able to provide a steady presence in the offense.
DE Mike DeVito (Cap Number: $5.4M, Potential Savings: $4.0M)
DeVito is coming off an Achilles injury that can be very tricky. Allen Bailey received a pay increase in his place. Jaye Howard has made the most of his opportunities and Dontari Poe will be due for a new extension over the next season. If DeVito is unable to play at a high level in 2015, the Chiefs will need to do something about this.
LB Derrick Johnson (Cap Number: $5.25M, Potential Savings: $5.25M)
Johnson was a steady presence around the locker room and facility after his injury. The odds are currently not in Johnson's favor for a complete return from his injury given his age (32) and the type of injury he had (Achilles). If the Chiefs really need to gain money, they may need to work some money from Johnson's contract. The challenge is that he is in the final season of his deal.
The Chiefs will need to create some serious cap space ($30-$45M) if they want to be a major player in the free agent market. Kansas City is in a position where they can't bank solely on draft picks immediately contributing. The offense needs to be able to compete against the rest of the AFC West. They need immediate impacts at the receiver position and along the offensive line. That is going to require some serious coin to be able to outbid other suitors who may have more appeal (see Emmanuel Sanders and the Broncos). They must be aggressive this off-season. And the signings they do make must help them change the tide in their favor over the final eight games of the season. John Dorsey and Andy Reid cannot lose in March.