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Looking Ahead to the Chiefs' 2013 Cap Situation


The Kansas City Chiefs continued to break our hearts this past Sunday, getting trounced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rumors have surfaced about Pioli’s (and even Crennel’s) future with the team. Though this article was pre-planned by a couple weeks, it’s actually as good a time as any to look ahead to the 2013 offseason to see how the Chiefs’ cards fall as it concerns the roster and salary cap.

To kickoff, let’s start out by listing which players’ contracts are expiring at the end of this season.

UFAs RFAs
Albert, Brandon Gafford, Thomas
Belcher, Jovan Maneri, Steve
Bowe, Dwayne Mattison, Bryan
Colquitt, Dustin Toribio, Anthony
Daniels, Travis  
Dorsey, Glenn  
Elam, Abram  
Hillis, Peyton  
Jones, Edgar  
Lilja, Ryan  
O’Connell, Jake  
Pitoitua, Ropati  
Quinn, Brady  
Siler, Brandon  

A few names that I’m sure have popped out are Albert, Bowe & Dorsey, as they’ve been the most talked-about players whose contracts will be expiring (such talk dating back to at least April), with a lot of that talk being related to how high of a contract these players may demand. Two other names that pop out to me (though whose contracts should be exponentially cheaper) are Colquitt and Gafford. Not only should a punter’s and long-snapper’s value to a team not be underestimated, but they’re among the only players who have been consistently performing up to standard all season.

A lot of how we view what player personnel changes should be made relies on a general idea of how much a player would likely demand and how much money is likely available for the team to use on these players. It’s the latter portion of this speculation that I (and my Spotrac-obsessed hind parts) primarily hope to shed light on this week.

At last announcement, the Chiefs had approx. $14.5 million remaining in cap availability; though I’ve indicated in past that some of this money many be promised to players in the form of NLTBE incentives (and thereby wouldn’t show up until next season after the player has earned said incentive, we’ll assume for the sake of this exercise that either such NLTBEs were not set or, if they were set, weren’t met. So the Chiefs should have at least $14.5 million in cap space available next season by rollover alone, but how else is the team looking?

Running the numbers on next season’s non-FAs (read: guys that’ll still be on roster), I’ve discovered that the team currently is set to be allocating approximately $117 million towards cap hitting player expenses. It is likely that next year’s league defined cap will be in the same range as this year’s set cap which is $120.6 million. So, before factoring in rollover money, the Chiefs are only set to have about $3.6 million freed up to spend on FAs (regardless of whether they’re the Chiefs’ own or from other teams). That’s not counting the estimated $7 million dollars that will be required to spend on next season’s draft class. So, without the rollover, the Chiefs are in the hole $3.4 million.

Looks pretty bad at first glance, but let’s tack on the rollover money: that would put the Chiefs $11.1 million under cap after the rookie class is taken into consideration. Okay, now that doesn’t look as bad, but there are at least three big names up for FA and $11.1 million cap availability looks to be able to sign only one.

There appears to be a way around this, but it’s one that Pioli may not like as it involves two of “his” players:

1) Tyson Jackson, through “help” of a contract escalator, is set to be making $14.72 million in base salary next season and has also caused additional cap hits through bonuses amounting to $2.525 million. According to NFL.com’s Brian McIntyre (formerly of Mac’s Football Blog), Tyson Jackson’s 2013 base salary is only guaranteed for $3.22 million. So it looks like a certain someone should probably be cut. In doing so, the Chiefs would free up $11.5 million dollars in cap space (as indicated in a previous article, bonus money has a way of becoming dead money, so we’re looking at $14.72 million minus the guaranteed $3.22 million the Chiefs would be required to pay Jackson out of cap hitting funds). Now we’re up to $22.6 million in available cap space in 2013.

2) Matt Cassel. Though I’ve been unable to locate how much, if any, of Matt Cassel’s base salary for 2013 & 2014 is guaranteed, we’ll assume for this exercise that none of it is, and the only Chiefs obligation would come from bonuses. Cassel is currently set to cause a $9.825 million cap hit in 2013. Were he cut (and again assuming that none of the base salary is guaranteed), the Chiefs would be looking to spend $4.2 million in dead money, freeing up about $5.625 million in 2013. This would bring the available cap space to $28.225 million dollars (assuming a Jackson cut… and, at his ludicrous 2013 salary, why shouldn’t we want to see Jackson cut?).

Now, I realize I just threw out a bunch of numbers in sentence-form, which, if you’re anything like me, makes it a little harder to follow and reference. So to make the presentation of this information a little bit easier, I’ve devised the following table

EOS - Current Rollover - Jackson - Cassel
$124, 053,303 $14.5 million $11.5 million $5.625 million

“EOS” refers to the summation of the expected cap hit Entering the OffSeason (includes both players on roster, including Jackson and Cassel, and the rookie pool of approx. $7 mil). Current rollover is what it sounds like: money that may be expected to be rolled over and help alleviate the cap room. The $11.5 million in the “Jackson” column is what could be expected to be loosened up in cap space were TJax to be cut; same with the $5.625 million in the “Cassel” column.

So the question arises: how should this potential cap money be spent? To help facilitate this line of thinking I’ve developed the following hypothetical situations.

NOTE: One thing to remember in doing these hypotheticals is that, of the 18 positions open due to contracts expiring, seven will be filled through draft (at least as of now, and whose cap hit has already been accounted for in the figures) and two (the lowest priced ones) won’t count towards the cap (cap is determined by the highest 51 contracts of the 53-man roster come the regular season), so nine spots will need to be filled through re-signing the Chiefs FAs, or signing FAs from other teams, or signing UDFAs after the draft. These nine spots will cause a minimum cap hit of $3.51 million [determined as the minimum (rookie) contract of $390,000 X 9 spots].

Hypothetical Situation #1

For whatever reason (brain damage, maybe?), it’s decided to not cut Jackson or Cassel. After taking into account player cap and rookie cap there is approx. $124 million in cap obligations. The $14.5 million in rollover money brings this down to $109.5 million. Assuming a league set cap of $120.6 million, you have $11.1 million left to re-sign players. Who gets re-signed? What positions get targeted in the draft?

Hypothetical Situation #2

You’re slightly less brain-damaged and decide to cut Cassel and leave Jackson be. After taking into account player cap and rookie cap there is approx. $124 million in cap obligations. The $14.5 million in rollover money brings this down to $109.5 million. Cutting Cassel frees up an additional $5.625 million in cap space. Assuming a league set cap of $120.6 million, you have $16.725 million left to re-sign players. Who gets re-signed? What positions get targeted in the draft?

Hypothetical Situation #3

You’ve decided to cut Jackson, but leave Cassel on board for back-up purposes (he’s an expensive back-up, but provides a veteran presence/experience at the position, so you think the harm to the cap outweighs allowing a rookie squad plus Stanzi to run solo). After taking into account player cap and rookie cap there is approx. $124 million in cap obligations. The $14.5 million in rollover money brings this down to $109.5 million. Cutting Jackson frees up $11.5 million in cap space. Assuming a league set cap of $120.6 million, you have $22.6 million left to re-sign players. Who gets re-signed? What positions get targeted in the draft?

Hypothetical Situation #4

You’ve made the decision to cut both Jackson and Cassel. After taking into account player cap and rookie cap there is approx. $124 million in cap obligations. The $14.5 million in rollover money brings this down to $109.5 million. Cutting Jackson frees up $11.5 million in cap space. Cutting Cassel frees up an additional $5.625 million in cap space. Assuming a league set cap of $120.6 million, you have $28.225 million left to re-sign players. Who gets re-signed? What positions get targeted in the draft?

Bonus: Hindsight Hypothetical

Not knowing how this season would play out up to this point, you decide to sign all the players in FA that Pioli decided to sign, but you’ve decided to tweak the offseason slightly by also re-signing Carr. The terms of the agreement are the same terms the Cowboys offered him. For the sake of this hypothetical we’re assuming matching these terms would be enough for him to re-sign with the Chiefs, childhood dreams be damned. This season, Carr’s contract hits the cap by $3.2 million; in 2013, it hits the cap by $16.3 million. The rollover money is now $11.3 million (the current $14.5 million minus the $3.2 million cap hit). In adding Carr onto the 2013 roster, and taking rookie cap into account, the new 2013 cap obligations amount to $140.3 million. After deducting the new rollover amount ($11.3 mil), you’re down to $129 million in cap obligations. The league defined cap is still $120.6 mil; you have to come into compliance. Cutting Cassel wouldn’t be enough to come into compliance ($129 mil minus $5.625 mil is still greater than $120.6 mil), so your hand is forced in cutting Jackson to free up that $11.5 mil. Without additionally cutting Cassel (yet), the cap obligations decrease to $118.5 leaving only $2.1 million in available cap (not even enough to re-sign Colquitt). Now by cutting Cassel the available cap can be increased to $7.725. Who gets re-signed? What positions get targeted in the draft?

____________

Of the four, still possible, hypotheticals, I’d personally subscribe to Hypothetical Situation #4. Cutting Jackson seems to me to be a no-brainer (no way is he worth $17.245 million, and I’d rather tie up $5.745 mil in dead money in 2013 for the sake of having the remaining $11.5 million available to help with re-signing players or potentially dabbling in FA with other teams’ players). Though, with Quinn entering FA, cutting Cassel leaves the team without a QB on roster with regular season experience, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the Chiefs “double-tap” the QB position in the draft (ideally, Geno Smith in Round 1 and, if he or someone like him drops so far, someone like Collin Klein in Round 3 – keeping in mind that the loss of Carr will likely earn the Chiefs a compensatory Round 3 draft pick); it’d be a risk, what with both players having no NFL experience, but it’s a risk I’d like to see be taken. I know, it’s probably crazy to draft two QBs such as the ‘Skins did this past draft with RGIII and Kirk Cousins, and especially crazy given the team I’m suggesting do it (our beloved Chiefs) given the team’s history in this regard, but God help me, if Klein is available later, despite the Heisman hype, I’d love to see a QB with his fight and passion as the #2 keeping guys pumped on the sideline, and I’d trust someone like him to not do any worse than the Chiefs QBs this year were a situation to arise where he’d have to play. I’m sure it’s a pipe dream, but that’s part of what this exercise is about.

As for how I’d like to see the freed up $28.225 million spent: I’d prefer to see Bowe and Albert re-signed for certain. Given the average costs of WRs and LTs of similar quality, this could cost as little as $8 million in 2013 (akin to Carr’s deal with the ‘Boys where he accepted an incredibly low base salary in the 1st year of the contract, given that he still received $10 million in signing bonus this season, and just allowed the team to prorate it over the course of five seasons at $2 million a season) or it could cost as high as $20 million (taking the average cap hits of comparable players’ contracts). I’ll assume the 2013 costs to be somewhere in between at $14.225 total for both players (2014’s projected cap hit based on active contracts is only $84.894378, so a deal structure closer to Carr’s wouldn’t be nearly as damaging that year).

So, in my scenario, I’m down to $14 million available. I’d definitely re-sign Colquitt and Gafford who, combined, would likely hit the cap by $3.5 million in 2013, leaving $10.5 million available.

Given that I’d be cutting one starting DE (Jackson) and letting the other walk in FA (Dorsey), I’d probably re-sign Pitoitua (whose re-signing I’m estimating to hit the 2013 cap by $1.5 million) and would gun for a DE in either Round 3 (compensatory Carr pick) or Round 4 in the draft.

Down to $9 million in cap space, I might also bring back Edgar Jones and Lilja (estimating a $2.7 million combined cap hit in 2013, $800,000 for Jones and $1.9 mil for Lilja). Jones has been a boost to ST this year and provides okay LB depth (and is one less position to be targeted in the draft) and Lilja would provide reliable back-up depth, if nothing more, and would help keep the OL more intact as they continue to gel together in this year’s new zone blocking system.

Two cap-hitting roster spots remain in this scenario and I’ll assume they’ll be filled by rookie UDFAs (for a cap hit of about $800,000) bringing the remaining money down to about $5.9 million, which I might let ride into 2014.

For the draft I’d target: QB, ILB (I’m letting both Belcher and Siler walk after all), DE & DB (in that order of importance).

As for my thoughts on the “Hindsight Hypothetical”: Carr really doesn’t look like he’d have been worth it. With only $7.725 mil remaining, which is really only about $4.225 mil after deducting the minimum $3.51 mil for nine open roster spots (which I mentioned in my “note” up there), a ton of useful players would need to be allowed to walk and maybe one of Bowe, Albert or Dorsey (at absolute best) could’ve been re-signed. At risk to be replaced through rookies (by drafting or signing as UDFA) would’ve been QB (Cassel would’ve had to been cut, which looks like an inevitability now, but had he returned to 2010 form would be deemed a problem, and Quinn probably couldn’t be re-signed even if you wanted to), both starting DEs and one of the back-up DEs, two out of three starting OL positions (Albert & Lilja), star WR (Bowe), starting ILB (Belcher) and his best back-up option (Siler), the punter, the long snapper, and two veteran S’s (Daniels and Elam; leaving only current rookie Tysyn Hartman and rookie IR player De’quan Menzie as backups). That would be cause for a massive rebuild (all those positions can’t be addressed in the draft, and not early enough in the draft to be hopeful about the players’ ability to replace the lost players with an equal or higher level) and would put the Chiefs in a much, much worse position than the team currently finds itself in. Not signing Winston, Boss or Routt would’ve cleared up about a maximum of $10 mil to be rolled over into next season, and cleared up active contract requirements in 2013 to the tune of about $18.2 mil for a total of $28.2 mil. These are much nicer figures for signing at least two of the big three in 2013, but doesn’t address the issue of what to do about RT this season (whichever choice being made decreasing the rollover amount), or the depth at TE this season (a “contingency plan” being a top concern considering Moeaki’s early injury in 2011), and the secondary depth would still be the same it is today (meaning it would still not be good enough). Maybe things could’ve worked out, but considering it would require leaving nearly $24.5 mil in available cap this year (for the intent purpose of rolling the money over to help during the 2013 season), the heat from fans and media for any underperformance while having greater cap space availability would be even hotter than it is now; not to mention the heat turning up if Moeaki fell to injury without preemptive back-up efforts being made, or BRich received an extension.

As for whether or not the Chiefs should make a play on Matt Flynn or another prospect to help turn around this season now: just keep in mind that the acquisition of such a player would decrease the available funds for rollover into 2013, and that if such player had a contract for more than just this 2012 season you’d have to increase the cap numbers for 2013, too . This would also affect the hypotheticals and how likely it’d be to re-sign who you deem to be key players next year*. Trading for a QB or picking up a QB from FA (McNabb?? Garrard??) might not be as harmful as re-signing Carr could’ve been. The re-signing of Carr would have not only decreased how much cap was left to rollover into 2013 by $3 mil, but also would have added the obligation of a $16.3 mil cap hit to next season which is what would’ve made it so potentially damaging. So, if you feel a QB now would be worth the cost, feel free to hypothesize in the Comments section, just be mindful that how money is spent in this season does have an effect on what personnel moves may be made next season.

*Assuming that all that changes hands are Flynn and draft picks. If someone like Bowe were traded for Flynn directly, or traded to MIA for picks, and picks traded to SEA for Flynn, then the loss of Bowe’s salary would make up for the addition of Flynn’s. In that case both Albert and Dorsey could be re-signed next year, if so chosen, what with Bowe out of the mix.

Let me hear your thoughts. Which hypothetical would you use? Who would you re-sign? What positions (and maybe even who, specifically) would you target in the draft? After seeing a more comprehensive look at the cap figures, do you think signing Carr would’ve been more trouble than it was worth? Are you still frustrated about this year’s available cap space, even after seeing situations in which it might be put to better use next year? Do you feel a different QB now would be worth the cost elsewhere?

Let me hear it all; I’m curious as to what options my fellow Addicts think would be possible in terms of player personnel moves intended to make the 2013 Chiefs a more competitive team. Despite being mostly realistic, I was admittedly a little pie-in-the-sky with my hopes of drafting both Geno and Klein; feel free to do similarly (but let’s try to not go too extreme into complete delusion, as euphoric as it might be, and keep it more in the realm of realism and where we think our Chiefs might be headed).

Sound off, Addicts!

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Tags: Arrowhead Addict Chiefs Dwayne Bowe Kansas City Chiefs KC Chiefs Matt Cassel NFL News Tyson Jackson

  • Kyle Rohde

    Awesome analysis. The thing that hits me here is…the Chiefs really don’t have that much salary cap room. Everybody loves to complain about Pioli saving the Hunts money…but this shows how little they truly have to play with.

    Scenario #4 is the only one that makes sense. But I would expect they’ll cut Jackson and keep Cassel, unless Pioli goes.

  • Altarium

    A QB now is not worth it. Especially if Pioli sticks around; he might pick up a QB in the next week or two and if their play is even average, he might try to keep them on a discount as our QB of the future.
    If Klein keeps playing well this season, and if his throwing keeps improving.. I’d want to draft him over Geno Smith. Put down your pitchforks and torches… my reasoning is that Klein is a GREAT team leader, which the Chiefs seem to lack on offense. Look at Philip “cry-me-a” Rivers: I may be wrong, but despite his “elite” playing (which I still don’t see it as “elite”) he is not the kind of player who seems able to rally his team and convince them to win. The best QB’s are great players AND great leaders. One without the other and they’re just mediocre.

  • Doc

    Scenario #4 is the best. No sense bringing Carr back. Draft a DB and let Routt play one more year. Getting our safeties healthy and playing in position will help Routt’s performance. A cheaper option for the Chiefs than thinking about getting Carr back. What has he really done in Dallas so far this year? We have to re-sign Albert, Colquitt, Gafford, and Jones. Keep Dorsey if we go back to a 4-3 defense, otherwise let him walk. Maneri needs to be given more snaps to be evaluated. Seems to me he has good hands. I would keep Quinn for one more year for nothing else than to have some experience on the bench at QB (not a lot, but some none the less). Pitoitua and Toribio need to be kept, if they can be hand for less money. The rest can be addressed in FA and the draft. Nobody should have a lock on their position this year with a handful of exceptions (Charles, Colquitt, Houston, Succop, Flowers, Albert, Hudson, and Hali – yes, I have left DJ off of this list because his play so far has dropped off dramatically and maybe that is because RAC is wearing two hats). Until we change the leadership at GM, this is a nice dream to think about.

    • Jim Harper

      Are you crazy? DJis still playing at an all pro level!

  • ArrowFan

    I think we may have something in the Trick Shot guy currently stashed on the IR, and we will only need to draft 1 high level QB. Consequently Bailey looks like a monster in pads in the above pic. Lets let Dorsey walk as well.

  • tm1946

    I figure they will keep any free agent who will give them a “hometown discount”. Punters are pretty cheap. so Colquitt has a legit chance to be kept. I predict the rest can walk. Some are from Carl’ era and Pioli does not want them. Jackson is some kind of pet a step or two below Cassel but beloved by Pioli.

    Appreciate the thought that went into article, great read. If Pioli survives, I say they keep his picks and pay them whatever. If Pioli leaves, multiple guys are shown the door with him. Depends if Clark Hunt takes any action as the season comes to an end. A minor role will be Crennels, at the right price he may want a fringe guy to carry footballs to practice, Quinn comes to mind.

    Would love an elite grade QB but Pioli is not going that direction. I expect the pioli Chiefs draft a DE or LT in first round. Sort of a mini-rebuild.

  • TAZMOSIS

    Scenario #4 is the one that makes the most sense. As for Pioli and his drafts, if he is fortunate enough to survive this year, and instead of using his first pick on a franchise QB, takes a D-lineman, the fans will riot at Arrowhead. It’ll be front page headlines in the NYTimes. There is one player who will ignite the passion of Chiefs fans, and that guy is (surprise)……..Geno Smith. The stars are getting in perfect alignment to be able to acquire Smith. Looking at their remaining games, I see them winning (hopefully) two more. They will lose both to the Donks, and I don’t see them outplaying the Raiders. Even with Palmer being mediocre, he is better than anyone on our roster. The Chargers? Even with a terrible HC, I don’t see the Chiefs beating them, even at home. The fans are not gonna’ be there in huge numbers. And if the Bolts get out to a double digit lead, it’s over. That leaves Carolina at home, at the Browns and the Colts at home. No one’s going to pay to see an average Panther team, but this is the one game that I think the Chiefs can win. Cam Newton has not matured like the Panthers would have liked, and his season is below average. If he brings his A game, it’s a toss-up. The only way they beat the Steelers is if Pittsburgh just doesn’t play well. And, they remember what happened the last time they played. That leaves the Bengals. They are a good team with a solid defense and a good QB, with receivers that can catch the deep ball. The one common denominator with nearly all of these teams is that they have QBs, with the exception of Palmer, that can light up our secondary. Routt is an absolute liability,(thanks, Scott), Kendrick Lewis is not completely healthy and Eric Berry seems to have lost his mojo. The deeper this streak lasts, the less likely the Chiefs are to recover. On top of all of that, we have a head coach that cannot seem to figure it out, and has said so. Out of all this, I think that two more wins is in the future for the Chiefs. Which means that they will probably win five, and be either out of the Smith sweepsteaks or leave Pioli with one more option, trade his entire draft for the first pick, which makes complete sense. Just ask the Redskins.

  • KCMikeG

    So long story short being $14.5 million under the cap isn’t really about being “cheap” and “stupid” but really a strategic move to allow us to continue to retain our talent and have the money to go get the talent we need – Hmm who would have ever imagined? I agree with the cut of Jackson & Dorsey plus Bowe & Cassel’s days here are over. I like keeping Albert, Pitoitua, Jones, Colquitt, Gafford, Toribio and either way on Lilja, Elam, Daniels, Siler, Belcher, Maneri (such promise in camp/preseason??) the rest can go.

    • tm1946

      If that extra money is spent, i can see your point but let us wait til we see if the money spent. If I recall correctly, pioli has withheld about 20 mil every year since he got here. Do not believe you can blindly support what this organization does. No, seeing is believing.
      As for who to keep, we are not in agreement but i will support whomever the HC wants….got to give him enough rope to hang himself.

    • BigGil

      Heck, it could be less by design and more by coincidence for all I know. But I would want my favorite team’s GM to be cap conscious not just in the current season, but a few seasons ahead, so as not to fall victim to cap casualty cuts and have to start the rebuild all over again, and how things seem to have shaken out makes it appear that that’s part of what’s going on. I’m obviously fascinated by the strategy involved in cap management so, of course, that’d be something I’d view as a big concern moving forward. Of course, if NFL salaries worked more like MLB salaries, though less strategy would be involved (and I’d probably find it substantially less interesting), we’d better be able to see how much Clark and Pioli really want to front a championship based on how much dough they’d cough up. But, alas, the NFL views cap restrictions as a necessary part of promoting competition, so cap strategy will remain the bane, or boon (depending on how good they are at it), of every GMs’ duties.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jacksona2 Jackson Anderson

    Breaston and Boss having been cut. Now we need to restructure Tyson Jackson’s contract to the base salary and no added bonuses. The base meaning 3.5 million if he doesnt like it. Release him and sign Glenn Dorsey to a small contract. Then we need to Restructure Matt Cassells contract. Resign our guys to long term contracts. We will still have pieces in place. Then we can go hard after Charles Woodson and Ed Reed. Ed Reed being a Safety and Woodson being a Safety/ slot CB. That will give us what we need as well we can lobby hard after Greg Jennings.