From the FanPosts -Joel
The Kansas City offseason is almost always full of drama. Every fan has his or her own take on how the offseason should play out. Certain moves that just make "too much sense", and we can't figure out why the front office isn't just doing what we want them to do. Well, as much as I hate to say it, that's largely because we have no idea what we're talking about.
Now, over the past couple of years, I have spent way too much time investigating how the offseason works. Honestly...I'm amazed at the things I've been able to accomplish outside of Arrowhead Pride given how much time I spend on here. But anyways, through my research and conversations with various experts (if you have Twitter and are interested in the offseason, Andrew Brandt is an amazing person to follow), I have come to understand why a lot of moves are made as well as the timing of these moves. So, I'm going to share some of what I've learned with you and apply it to the Chiefs current offseason in hopes of dispelling some common misconceptions.
1. The Chiefs are in "cap hell"
The Chiefs are currently sitting at around $2.8 - $3.5 mil over the cap depending on who you choose to believe. Regardless, this is not a good cap situation for 2015. However, it is also not "cap hell". First of all, the Chiefs have a number of moves they can make to get under the cap. And most of these moves are not going to set the roster back very much. However, more importantly, the Chiefs cap situation moving forward is PHENOMENAL! The Chiefs are currently sitting on a projected $62 mil to spend in 2016 with 38 players under contract. That means the Chiefs have $4 mil per player to spend next year (15 roster spaces). To put that into context, the Jaguars currently have $69 mil to spend...with 61 players on their roster! What does that mean? Expect some re-signings over the course of the year.
And the cap situation only gets better from there. The Chiefs have $100+ mil available in 2017 and $140+ mil in 2018. So as far as our long-term options go, we have ZERO restrictions.
2. The Chiefs should just go ahead and cut Player X
While the Chiefs will be making some cuts, one thing a smart GM isn't going to do is cut players that he doesn't need to cut. When you cut a player, you need to be sure that you are replacing him somehow. So just cutting everybody up front is not a smart idea when you have limited resources to replace them. When you're tight against the cap, it's smarter to cut players as needed instead of all at once. Hold onto your players until better options present themselves.
3. We need to give Dwayne Bowe the June 1st Designation so we have more money in free agency
While it is true that using the June 1st Designation on Bowe would free up more room, it would actually not help us much at all in free agency. The reason is that when you give a player that designation, the contract remains on the books until June 2nd. So the earliest we would have that money available to us would be after the draft when teams are already heading into offseason camps. We would have already missed out on all of those quality players that people are thinking we need the money for. As far as free agency goes, cutting Bowe outright for the $5 mil in space would do a lot more good.
So why use the June 1st Designation? Because that would help us with re-signing players. The $11 mil that we would get on June 2nd would allow the Chiefs to start re-signing players like Justin Houston, Sean Smith, and Dontari Poe. So there is still a lot of value in the move...just not the exact kind of value that a lot of people thought we would be getting.
4. We should restructure Alex Smith's contract to open up $8 million
I will admit that my critique of this is more about my personal opinion than anything else. You see, in my opinion, the best part about Smith's contract is that we can trade him as early as 2016, and outright cut him in 2017. That means if the Chiefs find their QBOTF, they aren't handcuffed to Smith beyond this year. But if you convert that salary to bonus money, then those options become a lot harder. That bonus money gets tacked on to his cap hit over the next couple of years and so it becomes that much more likely that we have to stick with Smith.
If you're a "Smith-hater" then that sounds like a nightmare scenario. But if you're a "Smith-lover", you still have to take pause at that because you know he's getting up there in age and you know that it is possible that we could find a better QB. You may end up being fine with it, but (except for the extremists) it will still make you think.
5. Eric Berry
As bad as I feel for Berry and his family, I had to leave sentiment out of this. That doesn't mean I'm advocating the Chiefs cutting him. Far from it. I believe that on March 10th, Eric Berry needs to be placed on the Active Non-Football Injury List. For those of you that do not know, the NFI List is how teams protect themselves when a player gets sick or injured in activities that do not involve the team. As sad as it is, Berry's situation is a perfect example of why this was created. When a player is placed on the NFI List, they are dismissed from all team functions for as long as they are on there. You might remember that Mike Catapano was placed on the NFI List last year due to his illness. When this happens with a player, the team has the option to withhold as much as all of the player's salary (as well as bonuses that he doesn't earn). That means the Chiefs would save $5.45 mil against the cap with Berry on the NFI List. But there are two major questions that come with this.
What will happen with Berry's income? The Chiefs can offer to pay him a portion of his salary if they wish. However, it is important to remember that Berry is already a millionaire, and he still has endorsements. But even if the Chiefs decided to not give him any of his salary, Berry is still covered by the NFL's health insurance policy, so the medical bills are not an issue. Plus, there are quite a few "off the books" means of making sure Berry is provided for. So he'll be ok.
What if Berry doesn't need to miss the whole season? This is one of the benefits of the NFI List. There are two different designations: Reserve and Active. Mike Catapano went on the Reserve NFI List last year which meant he was done for the entire season. However, with the Active NFI List, a player can return after Week 6 of the regular season. But what effect does that have on the player's money? Well, the player would start getting paid again upon his return, so whatever money is remaining for the 10 weeks would come back onto the cap. However, ALL of the money would have still come off at the time of his designation, so the Chiefs would have plenty of time to plan for his return.
6. Tamba Hali
The Tambahawk is in a position where there are a number of options the team could pursue. This is all the more confusing based on the way Tamba has talked all offseason. He appears to be completely open to the idea of taking less money to help the team. Well, I have a hard time believing that John Dorsey won't take him up on that.
Cut him outright - The Chiefs could simply decide that Tamba is too old and they have better, younger options. This would be pretty unpopular with the bulk of Chiefs fans, even though it makes a lot of sense. And Dorsey would have to pray that Tamba didn't go on to have another All Pro season while Ford struggled. But, honestly, I think the Chiefs like having Hali on the roster and Bob Sutton does seem to have the ability to adapt his defense to whatever we need it to do. So I doubt the Chiefs are looking at a scenario where Tamba is no longer in the Red n Gold. Something else to consider is that this is the method that Chip Kelly has pursued in Philly...and supposedly, it's not sitting well with a lot of players.
Re-structure/extend his contract - This would be popular with fans. Give Tamba a team friendly extension that can last him until retirement. Let the man go out the same way he came in...as a Chief. In today's NFL, that's really about as uncommon a thing as you can find. However, this wouldn't open up nearly as much money as the other options. It would certainly help, but you want to try and get max value from whatever move it is you're going to make.
Release and re-sign - This would be the ideal scenario for all parties involved. We get the max savings on the salary cap by getting Hali's contract off the books, and by re-signing him, we can make sure we get a lower cap number in 2015 than we could have in a re-structure or extension. Dorsey has experience with this move as it is exactly what the Packers did with AJ Hawk in 2011. The only potential downside here is that Hali could suddenly change his mind and sign with someone else. But in that case, the Chiefs do still have Dee Ford as an option.
Just leave it be - Much to the detriment of all of our offseason plans, the Chiefs could decide to do absolutely nothing with Hali. They have other ways to clear space, so cutting Hali is not a necessity.
7. We still need to open up almost $7 mil for our draft picks.
No, this is false. I understand that if you total up all of the projected cap hits for our draft picks, it comes out to close to $7 mil. But we do not need to open up that much cap space, and here is why...
Top 51 Rule - Until we begin the regular season, NFL teams only count the top 51 contracts against the salary cap. Why is this important? Because as our roster stands now, only the picks we make between Rounds 1 - 4 will be in the top 51 of our current contracts. So we only need to account for those contracts.
Other Contracts - As a continuation of that Top 51 Rule, you have to remember that we already have more than 51 contracts on the books. That means every time we sign a draft pick, it will be replacing another contract. So for our 1st rd pick, we don't need an additional $1.5 mil...just an additional $1 mil (most contracts being replaced on the Top 51 will be in the $500 - $600k range). This gets even better as we go on because only the 1st and 2nd rd picks will have cap hits that are significantly higher than the contracts being knocked off the list!
8. The Chiefs won't be able to sign hardly any players in free agency.
Actually, this is not true. The Chiefs actually do have the ability to sign a lot of players, though they probably won't be the names that you're thinking of. The Chiefs are fortunate that they have plenty of star power already on the roster. That means they won't be going out looking for a bunch of superstars in free agency (I know that's not what a lot of you want to hear). Instead, the Chiefs will be looking for a lot of depth and role players. Most of those guys will be had for the vet minimum (or slightly more). Why is that important? Well, remember that Top 51 Rule I just talked about? It applies here too. Every time the Chiefs sign one of these guys, they will be replacing a contract that is very close to the same amount. So instead of a player being a $650k hit to our cap, he'll actually only be about a $100k difference. And a player signed to the vet minimum? It's very possible that the Chiefs will get to a point this offseason where a player like that won't even count on the cap!
I know, you were hoping I was talking about guys like Cobb and Maclin...but signing either of them would be just one move out of dozens that our front office will be making.
9. The Chiefs won't be able to upgrade any of the holes on the roster.
This is more overreaction than anything. The truth is, the Chiefs are in a very good position to upgrade quite a few holes without doing much of anything.
OG - Whether you like him or not, I don't think anybody here is going to argue that Jeff Allen is as bad as McGlynn and Linkenbach...especially after the fact that he had so thoroughly outplayed them last year in camp. Plus, Fulton will have a year of experience and development under his belt. So the chances that our OGs are as bad as they were last year are very slim. They may not be world beaters like everyone wants, but they will be better.
RT - Ryan Harris wasn't great last year, but he was ok. I've been thinking a lot about whether his situation is similar to that of Husain Abdullah. Sometimes a guy just needs a year to get back into the flow of things. That could very well be the case with Harris. Plus, I wouldn't sleep on Sherrod. He's in his current situation do more to injuries than anything else. Plus, Sherrod ended up being a below average option at LT, but with Bulaga in already at RT, he really didn't have a chance to do anything. There is still potential there.
WR - The big one, but the Chiefs have already taken some steps there. Plain and simple Avant and Wilson are light years ahead of Avery and Jenkins. I mean, it's not even close. Now the Chiefs may lose Bowe, but they will have other options to replace him. We can find players that will put up similar production for far less money. If we end up with 3 WRs that average 600 yards and 3 TDs apiece, that's a realistic goal/expectation and already a dramatic improvement without much investment. And assuming we re-sign Avant, we're already close to having a group that can do that with him and Wilson. A decent FA signing and a 1st-3rd draft pick should have no problem rounding that out for us.
ILB - Even if Derrick Johnson is coming back at 75%, that's an upgrade over Mauga and JMJ. If for nothing less, DJ knows what he's doing out there and can read plays. That's a huge part of what the ILB needs to do.
Now, the Chiefs can certainly provide upgrades to these spots, and should actively pursue that. But just with the roster on hand, we can already see where improvements should be expected without having to add more talent. And as the offseason goes, we will see the Chiefs make a variety of moves, all of them geared towards improving the roster, not just this year, but for the next several years.
10. Justin Houston.
Saving the best for last...Wow, how quickly the tide of support turned against Houston. The "Re-sign Houston at any cost" movement has been replaced by "We need to trade Houston". Honestly, it's enough to make me shake my head and hope that Houston doesn't read AP. Now, I understand the frustration, and I wanted the deal done too. But this is a major contract negotiation, made even bigger by the fact that Houston just had one of the all time great seasons for an OLB. Whatever his asking price was last year, it absolutely went up this year. But in spite of the extreme shift in opinions around here, there are a lot of options regarding Houston and the Chiefs:
Let him play on the Franchise Tag - The first option is the most likely as of right now. It is altogether possible that the positions of Houston and the Chiefs are simply irreconcilable and both sides will agree to come back to it later. This hurts the Chiefs the most because they are paying Houston a ton of money, have to cut players to make it happen, and have no guarantee of keeping him beyond this year. However, Houston is risking a lot as well. He's letting a lot ride on this season playing out as well as last year did. That means no injuries and he has to put on another great year in order to justify his price. That's a gamble.
Get the compensation - This would require another team to make an offer to Houston, but the Chiefs could get the tempting return of two 1st rd draft picks. The mock drafters would lose their minds on here when they start assuming that Player X and Player Y will be future HOFers instead of draft busts or just average players (I won't get into the odds of which is more likely...but we all know the truth). However, this requires a team to REALLY want Justin Houston. On top of that, they would probably need plenty of cap space (to make an offer the Chiefs can't match) and would have to have some pretty questionable management. I only see five teams matching that: Jaguars, raiders, Colts, Redskins, and Falcons.
Trade him - They tried this, unsuccessfully, with Brandon Albert. The Chiefs could flat out decide that they don't want anymore to do with Houston and are just looking to get value for him. Another team might be interested, but unwilling to pay the two 1st rd pick price. So Houston signs his Tag and the Chiefs trade him. I would have a major problem with this.
Just sign the man already - It's an option, every single day. Dorsey can wake up any day this week and just say "screw it". However, giving into the contract demands can be a little tricky. Houston has no reason to back off of his position until the July deadline, so whatever the asking price is, Dorsey would be paying it now. That may or may not help the Chiefs cap situation.
Let someone else do the dirty work - It's a big of a risk with the Chiefs cap situation for 2015, but I'll bet John Dorsey is secretly hoping someone does make Houston an offer. Let the other teams show Houston what they think his value is and then match it. Yes, there is a chance that someone will present him with 1st year money that we simply can't match...but the chances of that aren't all that high. And as I've already explained, the Chiefs have plenty of cap room over the next several years to do whatever they want with contracts. This could be the surest way for the Chiefs to get Houston locked up long-term...all we need is a team to make an offer that we can match.
Just release him - Yes, I have actually seen people suggest this. And no, it doesn't make any sense. "Well, we'll get cap space to sign other players"...who are we going to sign that is as good as Houston? Nobody. "We will get a comp pick for him in 2016"...oh whoop dee fucking doo. A late 3rd rd pick for a guy who might be the best player we've had since Derrick Thomas? Yeah, that's value. "I think our defense will be just fine without him"...well, you're wrong. We've already seen our defense without him, and it didn't work out very well. "He's not a team player like Tamba"...I guess you've forgotten about Tamba's last contract. You know, the one that made him the 2nd highest paid OLB in football. This simply should not even be a consideration.
Now, don't take this as me telling you everything is going to be alright. I don't know how things will play out. All this is doing is showing you how things are not so clear cut in the NFL offseason. My goal is just to clear up some areas that seem to have a lot of confusion around them. Moves and counter-moves. Strategies, backup plans, and emergency options. The Chiefs FO will be going through all of it. I'm more than certain that there are tons of aspects that I haven't even taken into consideration yet.