Addressing the Chiefs’ Cap

This upcoming Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs head down to New Orleans to give the Saints a time of it. Given that the Saints have been in the national limelight for years (for both good and bad reasons), and that I haven’t been the only staff writer inspecting the upcoming opponent, I’ve decided to take a hiatus on Know Your Enemy this week and address another issue.

It has come to my attention that there are Chiefs fans out there complaining about the Chiefs cap. I don’t see a problem with it. I mean, scroll up and take a look at that bad boy.

Isn’t it great?

What human being could resist the urge to pounce on the debonair gentleman or courtly lady enlightened enough to don this sexy piece of Chiefs apparel? The wearer instantaneously lets others know that they’re not only intelligent, loyal and a humanitarian, but also that they have a keen fashion sense, all by sporting such an adornment on their crown. Heck, it might as well be a crown.

As for the complaints about cap room, unless your Mr. Moneybags and got a fitted cap, there should be a strap in the back you can adjust to tighten it up… Hold on a sec…

They meant salary cap?…

Are you sure???

Okayyyy. Luckily I know a thing or two about how that works.

Following the Falcons Week 1 aerial assault against the Chiefs’ lacking defense, it was clear to all that Kansas City’s CB depth, or lack thereof, should be an area of great concern (and after Sunday’s whomping by the Bills that concern probably extends to the entire defense). This observation was shortly followed by the announcement that the Chiefs still have $14.5 million in available salary cap space (misconstrued by some as being as high as $30 million). An ugly incident occurred through Twitter and Reddit, and even parties not directly involved in this exchange took to the Web to express their own displeasure over KC’s secondary issues and why it shouldn’t exist given the Chiefs’ available cap room; the common consensus being that Clark Hunt (and family) and Scott Pioli must be cheap bastards.

I can’t deny the Chiefs’ secondary concerns, and even wrote about this concern myself during the preseason. But I’m not sold on the salary cap being what it is as a matter of cheapness. No, I’m much more inclined to believe that the cap will be spent on players, just a little bit down the road and in such a way that the cap room currently looks deceptively large. I’ve already pondered that Pioli and the FO may want to roll the available cap into next season to help retain players such as Bowe, Albert and/or Dorsey and/or have cap space remaining to sign some bigger names entering free agency.

But another option exists. One that would pay the Chiefs’ current players more, but only if they can produce on the field. That option is the incentive bonus.

But isn’t that accounted for in the salary cap?

Glad you asked. There are two types of incentive bonuses: those Likely To Be Earned (LTBE), and those Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE). Only LTBEs are accounted for in the salary cap during the season they are expected to be earned. NLTBEs being what they are, not likely to be achieved, are not deducted from the cap in the season they are earned, but rather from the following season’s salary cap. This is where it might pay the Chiefs organization to carry extra money into the 2013 season.

Why take that precaution if the goals are not likely to be earned?

While the goals that are set are determined by the team, the nomenclature of whether such goal is likely or not likely to be earned is determined by league definition. Simplistically, an LTBE goal is one that was attained during the previous season and is therefore expected to be duplicated, whereas an NLTBE goal is a higher goal than was achieved in the previous season and is not considered to be expected to be met. Example: Dwayne Bowe had 5 TDs during the 2011 season. An LTBE goal for him this season would be to get 3 TDs; whereas an NLTBE goal would be 8 TDs (even though Bowe exceeded this goal in 2010).

So what happens if an LTBE goal or an NLTBE goal isn’t met?

If an LTBE goal isn’t met by season’s end, the money that was earmarked for that player/unit is released into the available cap space and may be rolled over into the next season. If an NLTBE goal isn’t met, it just doesn’t have an impact on the current, or next, season’s salary cap.

What kind of goals may these be?

The CBA identifies three categories of incentive goals: (1) Team Incentives, (2) Individual Incentives & (3) Honors and Recognized Media Incentives. Team Incentives and Individual Incentives can be made in most every major statistical category you can think of. Honors and Recognized Media Incentives pertain to the larger honors (Pro Bowl Selection, All-Pro Selection, etc.).

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On September 7th, Pro Football Talk reported that the Chiefs had approx. $14.5 million in available cap space. The latest report prior to this indicated that the Chiefs had approx. $16.5 million in available cap space. No player additions that would’ve affected the team’s accounting were made in the interim, so the safe bet is that the approx. $2 million differential comes from the making of LTBE goal(s). It should be noted that “win the division” is always considered, by definition, to be an LTBE, and it’s likely that such a goal accounts for some of this differential.

What isn’t known is how much of the remaining cap space is earmarked for the potential earning of NTLBEs. Again, the team’s or player’s performance from the previous season determines whether a goal is likely or not likely, and we can all agree that the 2011 season was disappointing. It wouldn’t take setting goals too high for them to be considered Not Likely To Be Earned. But such goals could include finishing with a winning record, making a deep playoff run, etc.

These are things that both the Chiefs organization as well as its fans want, and are within the potential of the team to earn. But paying the money upfront does not guarantee the player/unit/team will fulfill their potential. In fact, by setting things up so that the players only receive the money by earning it makes perfect sense. If the players earn the money, then great, it’ll mean the team has succeeded to a desirable level, the players will get the money they deserve, and, thanks to the cap management, the money can be paid out without putting the team in a compromising position that would require “cap casualty cuts” next season. If the players don’t produce, that’ll suck, but at least significant rollover cap funds will be available next season to help pull in free agents that may stand a greater chance of helping this team get to where it wants to be.

I know not having Brandon Carr sucks, especially considering the defensive failures of the first two games. But you know what else sucks? Cutting valuable players because you played fast and loose with your cap, and paying players a lot more than they’ll ever earn for the same reason.

More is going on behind the scene than meets the eye. For as much as Pioli gets demonized for this, that and the other thing, I’m not convinced that he’s deserving of such scorn. The way some people would spin it, every letdown the Chiefs experience, collectively or individually, is squarely on Pioli’s shoulders. But one person can’t control the actions of others. Limit their actions, maybe, but not control them. The coaches are not currently living up to their potential. Same with the players. Oh, they have shown at points in the past that they can perform much better than they have been; they just haven’t gotten a handle on it this season thus far. I’m not going to blame Pioli for these individuals’ failures. Their failures belong to them.

Now, I don’t profess to know what exactly is causing these failures. But I do know that I still love the Chiefs. And like with any loved one that makes a mistake, I’m not gonna go into a rage, verbally berate them and tell them to do better or else. I have been appalled at the amount of people that so quickly jumped to that reaction. Such actions have a way of demoralizing any person, and a lack of morale is the last thing this team needs right now. No, I’m gonna support my beloved Chiefs and encourage them to start performing at the level I know they’re capable of, and I appeal to all of you to do the same. A while back, one commenter made the statement that the home crowd shouldn’t make a difference in how well a team performs, and if that’s the case, why is homefield advantage such a huge deal come playoff time? I’ll tell you why: it’s because fan support does matter, it matters a lot more than you might think.

The sky doesn’t have to fall, but the less support there is, the more likely that baby will come crashing down. It took a flurry of Twitter messages conveying fan loyalty to the Chiefs, and respect for his individual abilities, to convince Eric Winston to come to a smaller market in Kansas City, even though he likely could’ve landed a big contract at a dozen other places. I’m curious as to how much drive and motivation could be stirred up in exploding your current Chiefs players’ Twitter accounts with positive, morale-boosting messages. We’re looking for someone to light a spark; what if we could be that spark? Idle support begets idle response. Chiefs fans were once undeniably the best fans in football, let’s embrace that legacy and kick it up a notch. Let the boys hear some noise! Let ‘em know that we not only want to see them kick some ass in New Orleans, but that it’s time to put the women and children to bed and go looking for @#$%#$% dinner… GO CHIEFS!!!!

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