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Kansas City Chiefs salary cap analysis entering 2015 offseason

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An introduction to a new series on the site.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

[Note by Joel: Thanks to KC_Guy for agreeing to post his Chiefs offseason analysis series on AP. This is the first one.]

Hello, Arrowhead Pride

For the second year a small team of Kansas City Chiefs enthusiasts over at footballsfuture.com have attempted to figure out what's going on behind closed doors this offseason at One Arrowhead Drive.

Arrowhead Pride editor Joel Thorman asked us if we could post our Chiefs offseason evaluation series on Arrowhead Pride. So we agreed. The first one below is our Chiefs salary cap analysis and Joel will post a new position every other day or so.

Those full-time professionals at Arrowhead started earlier than we did. But here we are doing our best to provide you with a 360-degree evaluation of where the Chiefs stand now, what needs to be done this offseason, what options they have and how it all comes together in one serious offseason plan aimed at improving the roster.

Of course, we don't have all the resources available that Chiefs GM John Dorsey and his guys have. We know some of the contract data, some are guesses or estimates (we'll use the overthecap.com numbers throughout this effort). We have limited knowledge regarding the severity of injuries and the recovery process. And we have to rely on media reporting to get some hints about individual plans by certain key players concerning their future. All this lends a bit of uncertainty to our evaluation process, but nevertheless, following a systematic approach, we believe we've got a pretty good grip on what may be going on with the Chiefs this offseason.

Ultimately this is the opinion of three guys. We are sure quite a few of you will disagree here, there, or overall and come to completely different conclusions. That's fine. Let us know. Maybe we missed something. The discussion is part of the fun. We, as a team, enjoyed working on this and have had some internal discussion already. Now it's your turn. We look forward to your feedback.

Dirk Scholl, Aaron Hansberry, and Joe Edwards

Chiefs salary cap analysis

When I started to dig into the Chiefs salary cap situation I thought it would be easy: Make a cut here or there, clear the space needed to re-sign Justin Houston and / or Rodney Hudson, and be done. That was until ... well, let's see. 

General reporting indicates the 2015 salary cap will be somewhere around $140-142M, a significant increase over the 2014 cap ($133M). The last number for the 2014 cap situation I saw had the Chiefs about $2M under the cap -- so they may roll over that amount, giving them a cap limit of (best case) $144M. 

Next I checked the Chiefs' active contracts for 2015 -- and BOOOOM: $144M for the top 51 players already -- without Houston and without Hudson. Even worse, at some point in time you'll have to fit all 53 players under the cap (adds approx. $1M), you've got to pay the practice squad (approx. $1.5M) and you need to keep some room for in-season signings to replace injured players (let's say $2M). Last piece to the puzzle: the draft picks (add another $1.5M).

So overall, with the current contracts, the Chiefs deal with a projected roster cap of $150M (give or take a little). Being the optimist that I am I figured the Chiefs need to save about $6M before even starting to think about any re-signings or added free agents.

I wondered, how come? Well, most of the contracts the Chiefs made in their big free agent haul of 2013 were backloaded. Donnie Avery, Anthony Fasano, Mike DeVito and others came cheap the first year. The second year the Chiefs still had some money to roll over. Now it's all piling up.

This year they gave new contracts to Alex Smith, Allen Bailey, Anthony Sherman and Jamaal Charles, adding to the malaise. Now they need to find a way (or two) to dig themselves out of the hole again they created for themselves. Again, the current situation is on Dorsey and his team, not Scott Pioli as some pundits claim (including one guy I like as a football expert: Bob Gretz). 

I then checked all contracts with a cap of more than $1M (doesn't make much sense to count nickels and dimes when bundles of Franklins are needed). 22 contracts to check and value. I ruled out re-negotiation or termination of all contracts re-done or extended this year (A. Smith, Bailey, Charles, Sherman) and all contracts where termination / restructuring would cause more dead money than money saved (Eric Fisher, Dontari Poe, Dee Ford, Husain Abdullah). 

The obvious two big ones left everyone is talking about are Dwayne Bowe ($14M) and Tamba Hali ($12M). Releasing both would clear $14M. By declaring Bowe a post-June 1 release, it would save another $6M (which would be charged against next year, but that's a different story).

Other players to watch (potential GROSS savings): Sean Smith ($5.5M), Mike DeVito ($4M), Derrick Johnson ($5.25M, yes, I said it), Chase Daniel ($3.8M), Donnie Avery ($3.55M), Joe Mays ($3M), Anthony Fasano ($1.975M), and Vance Walker ($1.5M).

The Chiefs options without addressing the Bowe and Hali contracts are limited.


However, you'll have to deduct the cost of the replacement from the numbers mentioned above. The effective NET savings would be significantly less than it appears at first sight, especially for the "cheaper" players. Players not listed would contribute less than $500K net, which would be a nice-to-have, but not a solution to the problem. 

I didn't forget about Eric Berry. He's a special case. While on the Reserve / Non-Football Injury list it's entirely up to the club whether they pay him at all and if so -- how much. However, any amount they pay counts against the cap. A weird rule, but that's what it is. Thus, if the Chiefs decline to pay him they save more than $5M in cash and cap, as only the prorated portion of his signing bonus ($2.9M) would count. The Chiefs walk a tight rope here, as the refusal to pay Berry might cause a significant media / fan uproar. It will be interesting to see how Dorsey and Clark Hunt handle this issue and whether the public will be made aware of it. 

Bottom line: the Chiefs will have to cut deep to solve the self-created mess. Their options without addressing the Bowe and Hali contracts are limited. The Berry issue needs to be handled carefully. But one thing is pretty sure: we'll have to say goodbye to some great players, long-time Chiefs and fan favorites. I will not refrain from making unpopular proposals in this upcoming series, especially as some signs are clearly on the wall already. 

That is it for now. Specific cap issues, especially the impact of potential releases, will be discussed in more detail in the position evaluations. I'm looking forward for you guys ripping me for that. Sad as the reason may be, I think this will be a fun ride putting on John Dorsey's hat and discussing options and ultimately come to a conclusion / decision that is not ours to make. 

A final note: There is (and will be) not sufficient room to discuss all options of restructuring, pre- or post June 1 releases etc. If you have specific questions: ask and I will try to answer.