In his regular “Monday Morning Quarterback” column, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer said that he believes the Kansas City Chiefs aren’t done creating salary-cap space by converting money due to their star players this year into signing bonus — the same thing they are planning to do with Patrick Mahomes’ 2021 roster bonus.
Last week, at this point, they projected to be over $20 million in the red on the cap. After [releasing Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz], plus simple restructures I’m told are coming on Patrick Mahomes’s, Chris Jones’s and Travis Kelce’s contracts, they’ll have more than $20 million to spend.
We’ve previously noted in these pages that the Chiefs could gain quite a bit of additional cap space — up to $19.1 million — by converting Jones’ and Kelce’s 2021 roster bonuses into signing bonuses that can be spread over the remaining years of their contracts. With the releases of Fisher and Schwartz — and the similar signing bonus conversion the Chiefs are planning with Mahomes — that could give the Chiefs as much as $32.2 million in cap space (EDIT: For what it’s worth, Kelce said he hadn’t restructured as of Monday morning).
Could the Chiefs be planning such a move? Absolutely... but perhaps not to that extent.
Remember: the team doesn’t have to convert all the 2021 roster bonuses in these contracts to signing bonuses. The Chiefs could choose to convert just some of it, allowing them to clear some additional cap space this season without moving too much of that into future years. As we have seen, that can sometimes backfire.
The typical Brett Veach plan
It stands to reason that Chiefs general manager Brett Veach will want to enter the NFL Draft with viable starters across the whole roster. This would minimize the inherent risk involved in attempting to select day-one starters; if the newly-drafted players require more development than anticipated, he would have veteran players available to start — and in the draft, allow him the luxury to make draft selections based on upside, rather than need.
And while big-money players like offensive lineman Trent Williams, edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, cornerback William Jackson III and wide receiver Kenny Golladay are all tempting targets for a team that needs help at those positions, the unique circumstances of this offseason may allow the Chiefs to get veteran help via shorter contracts at bargain prices — as ESPN’s Diana Russini noted on Sunday.
I spoke to a free agent wide receiver about what he expects from the market in general. He said “I really don’t care what goes down in terms of where I wind up but my agent knows I only want a one year deal. That’s the goal”— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 14, 2021
This unnamed wide receiver is expressing a sentiment that many other pending free agents may share: with a salary cap 7.9% lower than it was a year ago, 2021 might not be the season to be trying for a multi-year, big-money contract. A smarter strategy might be to find a good team where you can succeed for a season — and then return to free agency when there will be more money available.
Could the Chiefs take advantage of these kinds of opportunities?
Will Kansas City use a moderate amount of cap space to lock down three or four veteran players on one-year deals who can get them through the next season — while their drafted replacements get ready to start in 2022? Or will they get as much as cap space as they can to make one or two big free-agency signings — while hoping for the best from their early-round draft picks? Or will it be some combination of those approaches?
The next few days should begin to tell the tale.