When the Kansas City Chiefs signed offensive tackle Donovan Smith to a one-year contract last Wednesday, the initial report was that he had signed a contract worth “up to $9 million.”
That language made it pretty clear that some of that $9 million was in the form of incentives — probably the not-likely-to-be-earned (NLTBE) variety that would be figured against the 2024 salary cap.
But we didn’t know how much of the Chiefs’ 2023 cap space was going to be used on Smith’s contract. Those figures have now been reported — and they more favorable than had previously been thought.
Here at Arrowhead Pride, we had originally estimated that Smith’s cap hit would be between $1 million and $4 million — most likely close to $3 million — but a report published on Thursday said the deal would carry a hit of $4 million.
But according to the salary-cap site Spotrac, Smith’s contract is carrying a cap hit of just $2.8 million.
Smith is being paid a salary of $2 million (all of it guaranteed) and a per-game roster bonus of $60,000. Since he appeared in only 13 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022, just 13 games’ worth of that bonus ($780,000) is likely-to-be-earned (LTBE) compensation that counts against this year’s cap; if he plays in all 17 games, the additional $240,000 will be charged against the 2024 salary cap.
As often happens, details about the additional NLTBE incentives that might add up to $6 million to his 2023 earnings are not yet available. But however they could be earned, they will be part of 2024’s salary cap calculations.
Smith’s $2.8 million cap hit reduces Kansas City’s cap space by $1.8 million. This is because the league is currently operating top-51 salary cap rules that will remain in place until the cutdown to the 53-man roster in August. So Smith’s contract replaces the team’s 51st-highest contract of $940,000.
This means that the Chiefs — with 89 players on their active roster — are now estimated to have $2.7 million in cap space.
While this does not count the impact of the team’s recently-drafted rookies, there is more than enough cap space to sign them. Just three of the seven rookie deals are expected to have cap hits above $940,000, which are the cap hits of the 43rd through 51st-highest Kansas City contracts. So when those seven contracts are signed, their total cap impact will be less than $1.5 million.