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Where the Chiefs stand in cap space ahead of NFL Draft

With the NFL draft beginning on Thursday, the team is once again up against the cap. Now what?

Minnesota Vikings v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Over the weekend, the salary cap site Spotrac reported figures for the recent contracts signed by Kansas City Chiefs players Demarcus Robinson, Bashaud Breeland and Ricky Seals-Jones.

As previously reported, Robinson has a $1.05 million cap hit for 2020. As we expected, Breeland’s deal will count $3 million against the cap. Seals-Jones will cost $925,000 — a bit more than we had estimated. With those deals now on their books, Spotrac now calculates the team has $267,000 in cap space.

But Spotrac’s figure does not include the contract for new Chiefs running back DeAndre Washington. Here at Arrowhead Pride, we have previously estimated that Washington’s one-year contract would pay him the NFL minimum salary for four accrued seasons, giving him a cap hit of $910,000 in 2020.

Now, however, we believe Washington has received a veteran salary benefit (VSB) contract. This would allow the Chiefs to pay him that $910,000 and give him an immediate signing bonus of up to $137,500 — while carrying a cap hit of no more than $887,500.

This means that with all known contracts included, we think the team’s cap space stands between $32,000 and $192,000 — but most likely $55,000.

That’s not enough to even sign the Chiefs draft class — which Spotrac currently estimates will take $5.2 million in cap space — much less have the cap room to do anything else in free agency.

But even though salaries of drafted players do immediately count against the cap, that does not mean the Chiefs must make a roster move to clear cap space before Thursday.

This is because regardless of where they are drafted, each member of the draft class will immediately be counted with the NFL minimum salary for a rookie, which is $610,000. But this figure is far below the lowest cap hit among the Chiefs’ top 51 salaries — currently $675,000 — which means each of these drafted rookies will have no immediate impact against the cap.

But once the new contracts for the draft class are signed and processed, the team will need at least some of that draft class money.

Last season, most of the team’s 2019 picks were signed by mid-May. Even if the contracts are finalized that quickly, almost all of them will simply push a less-expensive contract below the top 51 threshold. So in the short term, the actual space the Chiefs need will likely be less than $2 million. September will be another story — but that’s something the team can worry about then.

“The cap is flexible; what we’re able to do is flexible,” said Chiefs general manager Brett Veach on Thursday. “There’s an array of moving parts that we feel confident in. So as far as doing some business from here to the season — or signing our draft picks — we have a plan that we’ve been working [from] all along.”

Those moving parts could include anything from a trade deal for defensive tackle Chris Jones (or even another player) prior to the draft — a move that would give the team more picks with which to work on draft weekend — to a simple contract restructuring to free up a few million in cap space to get the draft class signed.

“So the numbers may say one thing, [but] there are so many different things you can do to get yourself to where you need to be,” explained Veach. “It’s hard — unless, I guess, you’re sitting in our rooms here — to know what we’re thinking, but suffice to say that obviously, we’re aware of what it costs to sign our draft picks. There are some things that we’ve talked about — and we’re prepared to do a number of different things. We’ve been working [from] this blueprint for the whole time.”

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