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Chiefs go into cutdown weekend with $21 million in cap space

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Does this mean the Chiefs are going to make big moves this weekend? Maybe. But maybe not.

NFL: FEB 28 Scouting Combine Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The last time we brought up the subject of the salary cap space on Arrowhead Pride was way back on June 2. On that day, $9.55 million was added into the money available for the Kansas City Chiefs to use in 2019.

This happened because when the team cut safety Eric Berry on March 13, they designated his release as a post-June 1 cut. So on June 2, Berry’s 2019 cap hit was reduced by $9.55 million. That money didn’t just disappear — which is a common misconception. Instead, some of it was moved to 2020; next season, the Chiefs will have to work around the $8 million in dead money that will still remain from Berry’s contract.

A few things have happened since then.

On June 13, the contracts of Mitchell Schwartz and Harrison Butker were renegotiated. D’Juan Hines was signed the following day. Michael Hunter joined the team on July 31. On August 8, Hunter Dimick signed a deal; Morris Claiborne became a Chief the next day. Manasseh Garner came on board August 13. On August 20, Jalen Tolliver and Jeff Allen inked contracts. De’Anthony Thomas rejoined the ream on August 20, and Matt Moore signed up on Monday.

Not all of these transactions significantly impacted the salary cap. In some cases, a player was released to make room for another player who was essentially making the same salary. In other cases, players were signed to inexpensive deals that had little effect on the cap. And besides... during the offseason, only the top 51 salaries count against the cap anyway.

When the money Berry’s release hit the books on June 2, OverTheCap.com calculated the Chiefs’ salary cap space at $25.17 million. Today, OTC calculates the Chiefs’ cap room at $22.2 million.

But according to numbers from an internal NFL report that MMQB’s Albert Breer sent out in a series of tweets this week, the Chiefs currently have $21.5 million in cap space on their top 51 contracts. According to Breer’s information, that’s 12th-most in the league.

Current Cap Space

Rank Team Space
1 Colts $56.6M
2 Texans $37.0M
3 Browns $34.6M
4 Cowboys $26.1M
5 Titans $26.0M
6 49ers $25.5M
7 Bills $23.3M
8 Dolphins $22.1M
9 Bears $22.1M
10 Redskins $21.7M
11 Lions $21.5M
12 Chiefs $21.0M
13 Bengals $19.7M
14 Seahawks $19.5M
15 Eagles $18.6M
16 Jaguars $18.2M
17 Raiders $17.3M
18 Chargers $16.4M
19 Packers $15.2M
20 Jets $14.9M
21 Patriots $14.1M
22 Ravens $13.4M
23 Saints $7.5M
24 Panthers $5.9M
25 Rams $5.6M
26 Giants $5.5M
27 Steelers $4.9M
28 Vikings $4.7M
29 Cardinals $4.7M
30 Broncos $4.4M
31 Bucs $4.3M
32 Falcons $3.4M

Why the $1.2M difference between OTC’s figures and Breer’s? Details.

Sites like OTC can only work with publicly-available information about NFL player contracts. That allows them to make a pretty good guess at where the salary cap stands for each team. But NFL contracts contain a lot of details that are unknown to anyone except to the league, the team, the player and his agent. Some of that fine print can have an impact on the salary cap. In the case of the Chiefs at this moment, the fine-print impact appears to be about $1.2M.

These figures will change in a few days. Across the league, some veteran players with significant salaries will be released before the final roster deadline at 3 p.m. Saturday (Arrowhead Time). The salary cap calculus will change, too. Once the teams are operating with 53-man rosters, all 53 contracts will count against the cap.

Still... the Chiefs have a lot of cap room with which to work — certainly much more than we’ve been accustomed to seeing at this point of the year. What will they do with it?

Many fans think moves are coming. These moves are all spelled the same way:

C-o-r-n-e-r-b-a-c-k.

You can expect the Chiefs to make some moves after players become available from other rosters. While some of these players could be veterans with something left in the tank — and could possibly represent an upgrade over much-maligned players in the Chiefs secondary — most will be young players who just didn’t make the rosters of the teams that signed them last spring. Those kinds of signings will have little (if any) impact on the available cap space; most of the new players will be making close to the same salary as the ones they will be replacing.

Even if the Chiefs pick up recently-released veterans, the cap impact of their contracts should be relatively small; most players in that circumstance won’t be in a position to demand large salaries.

Could the Chiefs make a trade before the cutdown for a player like Xavier Rhodes of the Minnesota Vikings — to name just one of the players Chiefs fans suggest as a possibility? Sure. They have the cap space to make such a move.

But when it comes to the Chiefs salary cap, there are still three elephants in the room: the contracts of Chris Jones, Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes. All three players will need big-money contracts to stay on the team. The first two were publicly identified as signing priorities this season. If either (or both) are signed to new deals before the end of the coming season, much of that cap space will disappear — and what’s left will probably be needed for Mahomes next year.

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has definitely shown he has the ability to surprise us. Big moves could be on the way. But it’s also possible we will only see lower-profile moves before the season gets started — like the ones that brought Andrew Wylie, Austin Reiter and Charvarius Ward to the team in the last year. Veach has shown the ability to get value from those kinds of moves, too.