Throughout the offseason, most Kansas City Chiefs fans have been wondering when the team will give a contract extension to quarterback Alex Smith.
At 30-years-old, it seems likely general manager John Dorsey will give Smith a multi-year deal worth major money to justify trading away two second-round picks for him. In all likelihood, that extension will probably be in the ballpark of five years and $80-90 million, depending on Tom Condon's hardball negotiating skills and Smith's willingness to get a deal done sooner rather than later (i.e. before he gets hit again and risks his career).
If the Chiefs sign Smith, that will take away money down the road for future contracts. The simple math tells us less money will be available for guys coming off rookie contracts, something that could be a hindrance toward building a champion. Let's take a look at a few guys who will be affected by the hypothetical extension for Smith.
Note: The salary cap is expected to rise to around $140 million next season.
Tamba Hali is one of the greatest Chiefs of all-time, but heavily compensated and turning 31-years-old in November leaves him vulnerable to the chopping block. Many assume the drafting of Dee Ford signals the final season of the "Tambahawk" at Arrowhead, and that is likely the case.
However, one thing is worth noting. Hali is currently on the books to make $11.96 million next season and would be a $9 million savings if cut. Clearly, he will be gone without an extension. So, does Dorsey try to get Hali to return on a 3-year deal worth $21 million ($10 guaranteed)? It might not be enough to keep him, but production like Hali's isn't easy to replace.
Also, he is aging but keeps in great condition. Over the past four seasons, Hali has 46.5 sacks and has only missed one game due to injury. For the sake of comparison, when Derrick Thomas entered a season at the age of 31, he had 12 sacks.
While we are on the subject of outside linebackers, let's get to Justin Houston. The former University of Georgia star is going to be paid in a serious way after this season, a campaign in which he will only make $1.6 million. To keep Houston, you better believe it is going to take something along the lines of five years and $60 million with half of it guaranteed,
Pass-rushers are at a premium now more than ever before, and Houston is a lethal one. Add in how well he plays the run and drops into coverage, and you have one of the highest paid players in the league on your hands. The Chiefs can not stave off the financials for a year by franchise-tagging him either, because it would cost the Chiefs approximately $11.45 million.
Kansas City would definitely part ways with Hali before Houston, considering the latter is younger and better. However, he will eat up a large chunk of the money which has to come from somewhere, which leads me to...
Eric Berry is the preeminent strong safety in the NFL, with a first-team All-Pro distinction to his credit from 2013 to back it up. The former No. 5 overall pick is at the height of his powers and is due $8.3 million in 2015 should the Chiefs pick the option up (something tells me that will happen).
This is where Dorsey has to come in and negotiate. Berry is going to want a long-term deal; every NFL player does. Berry is also going to want a massive deal, and it is well-deserved. Expect a contract in the range of what Jairus Byrd got paid, upwards of $55 million with half guaranteed.
Keep in mind, the cap will continue to rise and Dwayne Bowe can be cut to save $7 million in 2015 and $10 million in 2016. The Chiefs would have to eat $9 million in dead money, but the savings is likely worth it unless Bowe has a great year in the offing.
All told, Smith's extension will not keep Kansas City from retaining Berry or Houston. Likely, it will cost them Bowe and (probably) Hali. The fact is, those two are likely gone after this season anyway for different reasons. If Ford steps up, Hali's loss will be felt but not crushing. With Bowe, a replacement will need to be found.