During the last week, the Kansas City Chiefs have quietly moved on from two players who were placed on injured reserve before the start of the season.
According to official NFL transactions reports, cornerback Michael Hunter — who had been placed on injured reserve August 30 — was waived with an injury settlement on Wednesday. He cleared waivers the next day and is now free to sign with any team.
Wide receiver Gehrig Dieter — placed on the injured list August 31 — was waived with an injury settlement on Saturday. He cleared waivers on Monday afternoon and is now a free agent, too.
Since neither player was on the team’s opening 53-man roster, their seasons with the Chiefs were over. So why did the team make these moves?
When we learned on Thursday that the Chiefs were close to signing a contract with wide receiver Tyreek Hill, CBS Sports reporter Jason La Canfora may have given us a clue.
Chiefs made some procedural contract moves today as well I'm hearing which would give them additional cap space. One would think that space would be with Tyreek Hill in mind— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 5, 2019
Neither Hunter or Dieter were making big money on their contracts — so at first glance, it wouldn’t seem like getting their contracts off the books would make much difference. But the fact that Hunter was entering his fourth year (and Dieter was beginning his third) might have been a factor. As veteran players, they would have had larger contracts than injured rookies like John Lovett and Davon Grayson — and while they were on injured reserve, Hunter and Dieter’s contracts counted against the Chiefs’ 2019 salary cap.
Then there’s Monday’s tidbit from the MMQB’s Albert Breer.
Revised details on Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill's 3-year, $54 million deal.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 9, 2019
• $18.34M fully guaranteed as of Sept. 10 ($5.8M signing bonus; minimum base salaries in '19, '20; $11M roster bonus guaranteed on 9/10, paid in '20).
• Cashflow: $6.52M in '19, $16.2M in '20, $15.4M in '21.
What’s interesting about this is that Hill’s salary under the new contract he signed over the weekend didn’t have guaranteed money until Tuesday — the day after the contracts for both Hunter and Dieter were off the books.
On Tuesday morning, OverTheCap.com shows the Chiefs with $11.1 million in cap space; Spotrac.com shows the team has $12.8 million. But neither site has yet processed Hill’s contract.
Were the moves to get Hunter and Dieter’s contracts off the books the “procedural contract moves” La Canfora heard about? Did the precise terms of Hill’s contract make such a large impact on the 2019 cap that such moves were needed? Or were these moves made for another reason? Is there another contract signing — perhaps an extension for defensive tackle Chris Jones — still to come?