On the Wednesday episode of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we took a look at the recent news that the Kansas City Chiefs have restructured defensive end Alex Okafor’s contract. What does that mean for the team — both in this year and beyond?
In the short term, the Chiefs have saved some cap space, adding $2.3 million in extra money for this season. Naturally this leads to speculation that the Chiefs could grab one of the quality veterans still on the market — perhaps someone like Jadaveon Clowney or Logan Ryan. But while players of that caliber would certainly help the team, such a move only increases the long-term challenges. If the 2021 salary cap comes in at the lower limit of $175 million, the Chiefs current obligations would put them over the cap; they’ll have to get under that number by the start of the league year in March. Carrying unused cap space over to 2021 will make that easier.
Precisely because of the 2021 cap situation, it’s likely the Chiefs were going to move on from Okafor after this season anyway; they essentially negotiated the break a year early, giving Okafor clarity and allowing him to develop a plan for his future. And now the Chiefs get him in a contract year, ready to prove himself for his next deal.
The news also means the Chiefs must have some confidence in their other defensive ends. Three of them — Okafor, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Taco Charlton — are now playing in contract years. Frank Clark is the only proven defensive end on the roster for 2021— although depending on who makes the team, the Chiefs will also have Breeland Speaks, Demone Harris and Tim Ward under club control next season.
It would benefit the Chiefs to hold on to those players for next season, when the position will lose a lot of snaps. We should hope that a slimmed-down Speaks proves himself in this critical offseason. If he can earn the trust of the coaching staff, it will be a significant step for the Chiefs’ future roster construction — and, of course, help them in 2020, too.
Regardless of what the Chiefs do with the cap space they gained in Okafor’s restructure, there are big decisions looming for the franchise. Players now on the fringe who can stabilize positions of need could go a long way toward building a sustainable dynasty.
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