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What we learned about the Chiefs this week

Taking a look at the week of March 16 on Arrowhead Pride...

NFL: SEP 29 Chiefs at Lions Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL salary cap less than projected in 2020 — why that is bad news for Chiefs

Late on Saturday night, NFL Players Association members narrowly voted to accept the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that had been under negotiation for almost a year. After news of the vote broke on Sunday, the NFL’s 2020 salary cap allocation of $198.2 million was (finally) announced — and it was less than the $199 million figure that had been projected.

Our previous back-of-the-envelope calculations had suggested that passage of the new CBA could add between $1 million and $3 million to the cap for 2020. Since the players’ share of league revenue increases (albeit slightly) from 46.8% to 47% under the new deal, it’s likely that the new CBA did push it up a little bit. This would suggest that league revenues ended up being on the low end of the December estimates.

With the new total salary cap allocation in place, Spotrac now estimates the Kansas City Chiefs have $18.4 million of cap space available — a figure that accounts for the money the team will need to pay its five 2020 draft picks.

But it does not appear that Spotrac has yet accounted for the increases in minimum salary which are part of the new CBA. So with a tag applied to Chris Jones, the Chiefs could be right on the edge of the cap. Since they don’t need to account for the rookie money until the draft has concluded, they can use that space for a while — but they will have to make the numbers add up by the end of April.

Report: Chiefs to officially franchise tag Chris Jones on Monday

We had been expecting it for a while, but just before Monday’s deadline, the Chiefs placed their non-exclusive franchise tag on the star defensive tackle.

This had been expected since late February but Monday’s tweet confirms the move. Herbie Teope of The Kansas City Star later noted the tag to be non-exclusive (more on that here).

There are now three options: Jones will either sign a new contract with the Chiefs, play for a season on the franchise tag or have his rights traded to a new team — with which he will negotiate a new deal.

The tag does not necessarily mean Jones will play for Kansas City this season. The Chiefs tagged edge rusher Dee Ford last offseason and then traded him to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick. The Seattle Seahawks tagged edge rusher Frank Clark last offseason, only to trade him to the Chiefs for a first-round pick and a second-round pick.

Chiefs bring back Chad Henne on two-year deal

The Chiefs also chose Monday to make their decision on 2020’s backup quarterback.

Henne, 34, signed with the Chiefs ahead of the 2018 season to serve as a backup and mentor to then first-year starter Patrick Mahomes. Henne was set to once again back Mahomes up last season before injuring his ankle in August.

The Chiefs placed Henne on injured reserve after he made the initial 53-man roster. With Henne sidelined, Kansas City turned to Matt Moore, who came out of retirement to join the Chiefs when Mahomes was out with a dislocated kneecap.

Why the Chiefs’ Super Bowl team beginning to lose pieces is a good thing

By Tuesday afternoon, there had been reports that defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah was going to sign with the Miami Dolphins and cornerback Kendall Fuller was going back to the Washington Redskins. Pete weighed in on how difficult free agency can be for Super Bowl champions.

Be honest. Maybe you wanted Deshaun Watson over Patrick Mahomes. Perhaps you liked John Dorsey over Brett Veach. There is a good chance that seeing Eric Berry and Justin Houston cut in the same day made you sick to your stomach.

But looking back, those were all necessary moves. And they were the right ones.

The challenge for the Chiefs is no longer reaching the top; they did that.

It is correctly discerning whom to keep — and whom to let go — to allow them to stay there.

Figuring out how much cap space the Chiefs actually have

With the beginning of the new league year looming on Wednesday afternoon, there was a lot of confusion about how much salary cap space the Chiefs actually had. So John explained why we always see such wildly differing figures — and also announced that Arrowhead Pride is now maintaining a Kansas City Chiefs roster page that will always include the best estimate of available cap space.

The two main sources for this information are two websites that are not affiliated with the NFL: and Spotrac says the Chiefs have $409,000 in cap space. OverTheCap says the Chiefs have cap space of negative $6.4 million — that is, the Chiefs must make a significant move in order to get below the total cap figure by the beginning of the league year.

But as often happens when there is a flurry of activity around the league, both of these figures are incomplete.

Neither site includes the cap hit of backup quarterback Chad Henne — which will be at least $1.05 million in 2020 — in their calculations. Spotrac’s figure also does not include the cap hits for Deon Yelder and Andrew Wylie, each of whom is likely to be getting NFL minimum contracts that will carry a $750,000 cap hit this season.

The rest of the difference between the two numbers — very close to exactly $6 million — mostly comes down to how they display their information.

Report: Chiefs restructure Frank Clark’s contract to get under salary cap

The Chiefs, of course, knew exactly how much cap room was available to them after re-signing Henne — and also how much they would need in order to make the moves they were contemplating. So before the new league year opened on Wednesday afternoon, they made a move to have enough space to get under the cap by 3 p.m. and make the moves that were coming.

They will do so by converting some of defensive end Frank Clark’s salary to a signing bonus, per Terez Paylor. Clark had been due to make a $17 million base salary in 2020. Paying Clark a portion of that salary immediately (in the bonus) prorates the number through 2023.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that the Chiefs gave Clark $5 million by way of a signing bonus.

The number of years in Clark’s contract remain the same — he is still due to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024. In short, what had been a $22.7 million cap hit for 2020 drops to $18.95 million, increasing the team’s cap space by $3.75 million.

What the Raiders are doing in free agency to combat Patrick Mahomes

The Chiefs might not have been making many moves in free agency, but other AFC West teams (with more cap space) were more than happy to take up the slack, hoping to challenge the four-time division champions. Ron first examined what the Las Vegas Raiders were doing, later summarizing the actions of the Denver Broncos and then the Los Angeles Chargers.

Cory Littleton was the cream of the crop of this free agency period’s linebacker group. His athleticism and superb ability in coverage make him a valuable asset to any modern NFL defense. He can be trusted to play all three downs and to effectively cover a variety of positions.

He gives the Raiders an option to slow down Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce consistently dominates the middle of the field and attracts attention when these two teams matchup — which eventually leads to the deep bomb touchdown throws we saw in 2019 Week 2. Adding Littleton may give the Las Vegas defense a better shot at containing Kelce and the Chiefs running backs on short to intermediate routes, leading to more defenders available to defend the vertical passing game.

How the Chiefs could keep Sammy Watkins

What the Chiefs would (or should) do with the talented wideout has been a constant subject of speculation through the offseason. Since one of the team’s options is to restructure his contract, John spent time on Thursday setting up some criteria to see what such a renegotiation might look like — and how much cap space the Chiefs might save using three different variations of such a deal.

In this exercise, let’s make two assumptions about the Chiefs: They want to keep Watkins, and they need to create some cap space for the coming year

Let’s also make some assumptions about what Watkins wants: the same money he is currently set to receive in 2020, similar cash payments in each year of the deal — and the chance to stay in Kansas City

Let’s further assume that Watkins might be amenable to getting a little less money in 2021 and 2022.

I have worked out three different structures for a two-year contract extension for Watkins. Each of these tables shows what Watkins’ current deal looks like — along with what the new deal would provide from 2020 through 2022.

Tyrann Mathieu reacts to Tom Brady, DeAndre Hopkins trade, names Chiefs’ biggest threat

On Friday, the Chiefs safety appeared on ESPN’s “First Take,” opening up on a variety of subjects — including praise for wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

“In my opinion, he’s definitely one of the best receivers in football,” Mathieu said of Hill. “I’ve had a chance to practice against him, go up against him in one-on-ones, no cameras, and he’s crafty. I think a lot of times, that gets overshadowed just simply by his speed. You got to understand, a lot of times, when he lines up, he’s lining up in two-man coverages, Cover-2 coverages, so his route combinations get limited in a sense.”

Chiefs sign offensive tackle Mike Remmers

By late Friday afternoon, Chiefs fans were anxious for the team to make a move in free agency — and they finally got their wish. First the team signed cornerback and special-teams ace Antonio Hamilton, following that with another signing to replace offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, who had departed for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday.

If you’ve been keeping track, Mike Remmers has now played for seven NFL teams over nine seasons. But it’s probably a mistake to characterize him as just a journeyman offensive lineman.

He’s started all seven of the playoff games in which his teams have appeared — playing 100% of the offensive snaps in every one of them — including the Panthers’ loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Carolina finished that season 15-1, rushing for at least 100 yards in every game. Over the last five seasons, Remmers has started all but seven games.

Remmers has mostly played at right tackle through his career, but has played everywhere on the line except center — just the kind of experience and versatility Chiefs head coach Andy Reid loves for his offensive linemen to have.

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