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Chiefs 2022 offseason overview: free agents, salary cap and the draft

With the 2021 season behind us, here’s where Kansas City stands going into the offseason.

NFL: DEC 12 Raiders at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After the Kansas City Chiefsunexpected 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday’s AFC Championship, they go into the offseason with 38 players under contract.

Two of the players now signed for 2022 — offensive tackle Lucas Niang and linebacker Malik Herring — were on the Reserve/Injured and Reserve/Non-Football Injury lists as the season concluded.

Eight others — wide receivers Omar Bayless, Chris Finke, Gary Jennings and Mathew Sexton, defensive ends Lorenzo Neal Jr. and Darius Stills, tight end Jordan Franks and running back Brenden Knox — also weren’t on the 2021 roster. All of these players have been signed to Reserve/Futures contracts that tie them to the team through the offseason; as the 2022 season gets underway, they’ll be hoping to make the team’s initial roster.

This means that just 28 of the 53 players on Sunday’s roster are under contract for the coming season. The remaining 25 — plus three more players who finished the season on injured reserve — are now free agents.

Unrestricted free agents (UFAs)

  • TE Blake Bell
  • C Austin Blythe
  • T Orlando Brown Jr.
  • FB Michael Burton
  • QB Chad Henne
  • CB Mike Hughes
  • DE Melvin Ingram
  • WR Marcus Kemp
  • G Kyle Long
  • S Tyrann Mathieu
  • RB Jerick McKinnon
  • LB Ben Niemann
  • DT Derrick Nnadi
  • LB Dorian O’Daniel
  • DE Alex Okafor
  • WR Byron Pringle
  • DT Jarran Reed
  • T Mike Remmers
  • WR Demarcus Robinson
  • S Daniel Sorensen
  • CB Charvarius Ward
  • S Armani Watts
  • RB Darrel Williams
  • G Andrew Wylie

Restricted free agents (RFAs)

  • CB Deandre Baker

Exclusive rights free agents (ERFAs)

  • TE Jody Fortson
  • RB Derrick Gore
  • DB Chris Lammons

Some of these free agents will be re-signed to new contracts; on Tuesday, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said that offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and safety Tyrann Mathieu are among the players the team could bring back. Others will be allowed to seek better deals with other teams — and if history is any guide, some of them will later be re-signed if they are unable to find work elsewhere. And some will never again wear a Chiefs uniform.

Expected Reserve/Future signings

Sometime in the next few days, the Chiefs will also sign most — if not all — of the 16 practice-squad players they had under contract at the end of 2021 to Reserve/Future contracts. These include tight ends Matt Bushman and Mark Vital Jr., wide receivers Gehrig Dieter, Daurice Fountain, Josh Gordon and Cornell Powell, defensive ends Austin Edwards and Joe Jackson, defensive tackles Andrew Billings and Cortez Broughton, tackle Roderick Johnson, center Darryl Williams, running back Darwin Thompson, linebacker Darius Harris, cornerback Dicaprio Bootle and safety Devon Key. The team may also elect to re-sign other former players, giving them another chance to make the team’s roster.

Draft picks

As it now stands, Kansas City will have eight picks in the 2022 NFL Draft:

Cap space

We estimate that the Chiefs begin the offseason with around $14.2 million in cap space. Until the team’s roster reaches 51 players, each additional signing will reduce the cap space by the player’s cap hit for the coming season. After that — and until the beginning of the 2022 season — only the largest 51 player contracts will count, so cap impacts for individual signings will tend to be less than their individual cap hit; the new contract will push another contract below the 51-contract threshold.

This cap figure, however, is likely to change soon. Before the league year begins in mid-March, the Chiefs are almost certain to make some roster moves to make additional cap space. These could include releasing defensive end Frank Clark, which would clear at least $13.4 million — and $6.5 million more if he is designated as a June 1 cut — or releasing linebacker Anthony Hitchens, which would create $8.5 million in cap space.

In addition, wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s contract runs only through the coming year, carrying a $20.7 million hit; his contract could be extended in such a way to substantially reduce that figure in 2022. And there’s always quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ deal, which was deliberately structured so that in cap-strapped years (like 2022), the team could convert his big yearly roster bonus to signing bonus and spread it across future years. With the stroke of a pen, Veach could use this feature of the Mahomes deal to create as much as $21.9 million in cap space.

As always, our Chiefs roster page — available under the Resources tab on any Arrowhead Pride page — has the up-to-date team roster and salary-cap information. As the offseason progresses, be sure to check it often.

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