After finishing our Chiefs roster analysis, the recent discussion on various positions, releases and non-releases etc. made me dig even deeper into the Chiefs salary cap situation. Throughout our analysis we always tried to balance what we thought might be a good way to proceed with what is financially possible. In the end we came up with significant cut, causing up to $22M in dead money while freeing up sufficient cap space to do some major moves. However, this approach received a broad spectrum of feedback - from approval to flat out disapproval.
Therefore I think it may be helpful to provide more detailed insight into the Chiefs' cap situation - as it stands now, and what the impact of our offseason suggestions may be.
Overthecap.com provides a decent cap calculator. However, that little nugget seems to have an issue respecting the top-51 contract rule once you start fiddling with signings, releases etc. So I went back to a Google docs spreadsheet I created for completely different purposes. But I think it will help us here as well. You can find it at this link.
One thing I wish to point out before we go into details: our roster projection refers to the final 53 player roster. Thus the Chiefs will keep players throughout preseason and camp that we tagged as cuts. You will see this reflected in the spreadsheet as well where I only deleted those players we see as cap relevant releases.
We are also aware that our projection has one inherent flaw: we more or less projected all draft picks to make the final roster - which is very unlikely. Take it as: the Chiefs may draft this position, and there will be competition between the draft pick and other players. We indicated that for some positions by assigning a slot to e.g. a "low round pick/budget FA/UDFA".
That said let's get into the numbers. Here's the link to the spreadsheet.
There are three sheets in this doc
1. The original roster as it is now (according to OTC). I took the freedom to add the exclusive rights free agents already (re-signing them should be a no-brainer) and a projected cap assignment for the draft picks. The sheet should be easy to understand.
2. A projected roster in line with our roster analysis. This sheet includes all releases we consider likely / worth an evaluation, the cap assignment for the draft picks mentioned above, and a projected salary for free agent pickups.
3. By special request a modified version of the second sheet, assuming the Chiefs talk Dwayne Bowe into a $5M base salary reduction (that's a pay cut, not converting base pay into a signing bonus!). This would result in Jason Avant not being signed. The net effect is an additional gain of $2M in cap space.
Let me explain these last two sheets in more detail
Contract adjustments. Only one or two so far (Eric Berry and Bowe). And yes, we're not paying a dime to Eric Berry.
These are hypothetical numbers based on last year's numbers. I assume a 3-5-5 compensatory pick assignment, and added five percent to last year's cap numbers at the respective draft positions. Draft pick contracts are often built around a vet minimum base salary, anything else will go into a signing / workout bonus. So that's the approach I used here.
Free agent (re-)signings: These are the suggested free agent signings.
The code in [ ] indicates the position, the name behind is a proposal who it could be. Contract numbers will be discussed further down. However, I only estimated the year one cap hit. Any further aspects of the contract structure are irrelevant for our purposes.
Releases. Cuts we made. An alternate option for Bowe will be discussed further down as well. I still have to find a way to retain Tamba Hali. I don't see it happening even on a reduced contract.
As for the individual free agent contracts proposed
Justin Houston: The number builds upon the franchise tag. Not sure a long term contract may be significantly cheaper.
Rodney Hudson: Using Eric Wood's as a benchmark: Four years, $25.4M. First year $5M cap hit.
Ron Parker: Using Malcolm Jenkins as a benchmark: Three years, $15.5M, First year $2.7M cap hit.
Jason Avant: Using his last year contract as a benchmark. Guess he'll ask for some more. To be considered: If Bowe is willing to reduce his contract by just $3M this would have the same impact as replacing him with a player like Avant at 2 M$, at least for this year. That is unless you declare him a post June 1 - release. So some if ... then's here.
Ryan Harris and Josh Mauga: Used 1.5-times the vet minimum as a benchmark.
Random veterans: Senior guys signed off the street for close to vet minimum as a cap processing contingency.
The overall remaining cap
As of now it stands at about $5M, but remember:
Come Week 1 the Chiefs need to cover 53 players, not 51 (add $1M)
They'll need to pay a practice squad (add $1.5M)
They'll have already paid offseason participation (add about $1M)
They'll have to retain some room to sign players throughout the season to replace guys going to IR (estimate: $2M)
Bottom line, the Chiefs are about where they should be ... but with not much room left to wiggle, unless you sign players cheaper than we anticipate or you are able to clear more cap room.
The most difficult things I think the Chiefs will have to consider in order to define their offseason:
Cut Bowe or keep him, trying to make him accept a noticeable reduction (should be more than $3M per year throughout his contract)?
How much value do you place on Hudson / Parker - and are there cheaper replacements available?
Hope this provides a little bit more clarity on the cap situation and demonstrates how cap strapped the Chiefs actually are if they try to re-sign their own big free agents.