The Kansas City Chiefs Salary Cap Options


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As fans of the Kansas City Chiefs put their agonizing loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the rearview mirror, the focus shifts to next season and what KC needs to do to win in 2014. Popular topics include: who KC should draft, who KC should sign in free agency, who KC should re-sign, who KC should cut, etc. In the coming months there will be endless debates on these topics. Just this week the Chiefs Kingdom started debating if/when KC should sign quarterback Alex Smith to a long term deal. Before we get too far into these offseason debates I thought it might be a good idea to take a close look at the KC salary cap situation going into next season. AA’s Jason Seibel already gave you a “Salary Cap For Dummies” breakdown to help you understand the salary cap better. I recommend giving that piece a read before you read any further so that you better understand how the salary cap is made up. This piece will actually look at the numbers and assess where KC is at and what they could do this offseason.

As Jason recommended in his piece, the website is the best place I’ve found to see a full break down of each team’s salary cap situation. The numbers I’ll quote come directly from there.

To start off, what every single KC fan needs to realize is that the Chiefs are NOT currently in a good position salary cap wise to make many moves this offseason. As their roster currently stands, with NONE of their free agents re-signed, no other free agents signed, no draft picks signed, and no new contract for Alex Smith they estimate KC’s salary cap number with the players they currently have under contract for next season at about 125 million dollars. The 2014 salary cap is supposed to be about 129 million dollars. That gives KC only about 4 million dollars to work with. It’s debatable if that’s even enough to sign KC’s draft picks for next year, let alone re-sign players, sign free agents, or give their QB a big time deal.

The possibility of re-signing Alex Smith is a debate all of it’s own, but just for cap space purposes, think of it this way. If Smith did sign a deal anywhere in the area of Jay Cutler’s deal in terms of average salary per season it likely wouldn’t even come close to fitting under their current cap space. Let’s say Smith signed a deal for slightly less than that and it averaged $16 million per season. If his first season did in fact have a $16 million cap hit, that would be an increase of $8.5 million over his current figure for next season of $7.5 million. So if KC were to spend their current $4 million in available cap space on signing their draft picks, they would then need to cut $8.5 million in salary from their current roster (and that still doesn’t include re-signing anyone else or bringing in new free agents).

It’s very easy for fans to take a stance on signing or cutting a player, but the bottom line is that for the organization the salary cap situation overrides popular opinion 100% of the time. Many KC fans may feel that Smith is worthy of a long time deal (I’m actually among them), but it’s not just a question of if Smith is worth that money. The real question is can the Chiefs fill out a complete winning roster while paying him significantly more money.

Branden Albert is another good example. Many fans simply think: “Albert is our best tackle, so we should re-sign him.” Albert absolutely was KC’s best tackle last season, but the salary cap situation makes it more complicated. Albert’s 2013 salary was about $9.8 million. Meanwhile, Donald Stephenson is set to make only about $750K next season. So the Chiefs have to decide if they’d rather have Stephenson as a starter (or a draft pick) and 9 million more dollars to work with (or however much Albert is wanting) or pay Albert and have to make cuts elsewhere. That’s why many fans think Albert is gone, not because they don’t think he’s good, but because they think the money he wants could be better served elsewhere on the roster when the cap numbers are this tight.

Now let’s talk about possible cap casualties for next season. Fans often pick the guys that they think should be cut strictly off of their on field performance. I’m sure NFL GMs would love it if they were free to make those decisions that way, but again the salary cap must be considered. If you go to and look at the players under contract for 2014 and want to find possible cap cuts, the key is to look for guys who’s “cap savings” out weigh their “dead money”.

Case in point, let’s say you don’t think Sean Smith’s play was worth his contract this season and you think KC should cut him because he’s set to have a $5.75 million dollar number against the cap next season. The problem with that would be that $4.5 million of that $5.75 is dead money that KC is paying him regardless. In comparison, his cap savings would only be $1.25 million (which wouldn’t be enough to sign a replacement). So cutting him doesn’t make sense financially (plus, I think Smith was an adequate starter, but you get the idea).

So who does it make sense for KC to cut?

The clear cut answer to that question is Dunta Robinson. Robinson looked absolutely terrible last season and is set to have a cap number of $5.3 million next season. $2 million of that is “dead money”, but KC could still save themselves $3.3 million by cutting him.

See you later, Dunta.

After Robinson, it’s much harder to find guys who would save KC much money that aren’t good players or don’t have big “dead money” amounts. Let’s stick with the cornerbacks for another example, Brandon Flowers. Flowers made the Pro Bowl, but actually had a down season by his standards. He is set to have a $10.5 million cap hit next season. That may make some feel that he should be cut, but once again the “dead money” is an issue. $7 million of that $10.5 is “dead money”. So while KC could save $3.5 million by cutting Flowers, is he really SO bad that you want to pay him $7 million dollars to go away? I don’t think so.

Flowers is one of three Chiefs that I think John Dorsey will try very hard to restructure this offseason. The other two are fellow defenders Eric Berry and Tamba Hali. Those three players are set to make a combined $33.5 million against the cap. That’s about 26% of KC’s total salary cap on those three players. Hali and Berry’s numbers make them slightly more “cuttable” than Flowers, but I don’t think either are ideal. Hali’s $11.4 million cap number breaks down to $5.9 million in “dead money” and $5.5 million in cap savings if cut. Berry’s $11.6 million cap number breaks down to $5.8 million in “dead money” and $5.8 million in cap savings. Since Berry is the younger player with more possible upside, if one of these big salary defensive players were to be a surprise cut, it could possibly be Hali. However, if Dorsey could get all three of these players to restructure their deals, it could save KC about $12 million in salary cap space for next season. The problem with that is that it takes that savings and turns it into guaranteed salary for the remaining years on their contract. That means that next year their cap numbers AND their “dead money” figures would go up even higher.

If you’re looking for a possible salary cap cut that could hit Chiefs fans like a ton of bricks, it would be Derrick Johnson. While I certainly don’t think KC should cut Johnson, he has no “dead money” for next season so his entire $4.25 million salary would be cap savings. If KC is really having cap problems this offseason, DJ could be their last resort cut. Let’s hope not.

Finally, one thing I found interesting was that AJ Jenkins entire contract amount for next season is guaranteed. So if they cut him they save nothing. So if KC does sign or draft a new WR to start opposite Dwayne Bowe it may likely be Donnie Avery that gets sent packing. Avery is set to have a $2.85 million cap number, with $1.5 million in “dead money” and $1.35 million in possible cap savings. While I don’t like the idea of paying Avery $1.5 million to go away, at least it saves us $1.35 million, compared to cutting Jenkins and paying him $1 million dollars to go away and not saving anything.

I understand that this post was probably a little “dry” and number heavy, but I thought it would be good for KC fans to understand what KC is working with financially. It’s easy to say that KC should cut “Player A”, re-sign “Player B”, and then sign every big name free agent on the market. While that sounds good, the salary cap numbers this offseason make things difficult. So before you rant and rave about who KC signs, cuts, and let’s walk, make sure you take a look at the salary cap numbers because like everything else in the world, money usually trumps everything else.

If I was running the Chiefs I would cut Dunta Robinson and Donnie Avery, restructure Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali, and Eric Berry, and sit Alex Smith down and tell him that we are committed to him long term at QB, but unless he’s willing to sign a team friendly deal now we won’t be able to do a new deal until after next season. While I’m sure Alex wants the long term deal now, I think he’s smart enough to understand that if KC is in a situation where his deal would cause them to cut a key starter or not be able to sign a free agent they need, he’ll understand. The cuts and contract restructures that I just listed could create about $16-17 million in additional cap space. That should be enough for KC to make the moves they need to sure up their roster for next season.

What do you think Addicts? Who should go? Who should stay? How much cap space do you think KC needs? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Tech Update:
As some of you already know, I am participating in Verizon’s Fan Voices program. Basically, Verizon gives me free stuff and I write and tweet about it from a sports fan perspective. This last week I got a new gadget to try out: the Fitbit Force. The Fitbit Force is a wireless wristband that tracks your activity and sleep every day.


At first I was a little sceptic that I would be able to tolerate wearing a wristband 24/7. In the cell phone age I rarely wear my wrist watch and when I do I find myself constantly messing with it. The Force is different. It’s so lightweight that most of the time I don’t notice it, even when I’m sleeping. The band tracks things like steps taken, calories burned, distance walked, flights of stairs climbed, etc. It has a small digital display that only comes on when you push the button to check it. Then you can wirelessly sync it with your computer or phone to get a good look at your results.

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One of the features I really like is that it tracks your quality of sleep. Not only does it tell you how much sleep you got, but during the night how many minutes you were restless or awake.

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You can also log your calorie intake during the day to help you with a weight loss goal (and this time of year many of us are trying to lose an extra couple pounds). Like I said, I was a little sceptic about this one when I got it, but as someone who is trying to get in better shape I’ve found this to be a really easy way to keep track of how I’m doing. If you have any questions about the Fitbit Force or the Droid Maxx phone that I’ve been using, please feel free to ask in the comments below and make sure to follow me on Twitter where I often give more thoughts on these devices.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Follow me on Twitter: @LyleGraversen

Topics: Kansas City Chiefs

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  • NicholasAlanClayton

    I agree with all of your moves, but I do think the Chiefs are going to have to go a bit further. The secondary has some serious problems, and I don’t think they are one 3rd-round safety away from fixing them. I haven’t examined the contracts too carefully, but I think they need to free up space for at least one FA signing in the defensive backfield. I think the only major knock against the Dorsey-Reid regime so far is that big deal for Bowe. That’s really hurting now.

    • micah stephenson

      Bowe is one of the top WRS in the lg. We had to pay him that much to stay considering we have nobody else on offense besides Charles.

      • tm1946

        At some point in time don’t you have to fish or cut bait. Not saying it is now but Bowe has issues and as a “top WRs in the league”, he is not so much. Denver’s Hilton must be an instant candidate for the HOF, at least he does something during games.

        • toperspective

          Definitely not now since Bowe’s cap number is only $4M. In the 2nd half of the season I’m sure many receivers circled the Chiefs game on their calendar.

      • Troy Utt

        Let’s just hope that past performance equates to passes caught on the field, unlike this past season. Had it not been for the play-off game Bowe would not have had a 100 yd game, & KC surely can find someone to block downfield that does not cost as much!!! I agree the Chiefs need more help at WR… But until we figure out which Bowe we paid for: regular season Bowe or post season Bowe, is what we will need to know before the draft. After coughing up $56.5mil for what we got last season, I’d say we better look for a receiver that Bowe can compliment!!! IMO Bowe left us feeling a little punked after getting paid… Hope it’s better next season!

      • NicholasAlanClayton

        I agreed with the decision at the time, and I don’t think you can say that it was a blatant screw-up or anything, but so far it definitely has not paid off and it puts the team in a bind. Bowe did not play like a #1 receiver this year, but he was paid like one. Now we have so much guaranteed money wrapped up in him that we can’t trade him, cut him or bench him. We just have to hope that he starts playing up to his contract. Maybe the playoff game was the inspiration he needed.

        • Calchiefsfan

          I don’t think there was a Chiefs fan that wasn’t disappointed in Bowe’s performance this season but I wonder how much of that had to do with Smith’s reluctance to throw down field. It seemed like Smith and Bowe were starting to get on the same page by the end of the year. I found it interesting that both Bowe and Smith really stepped up when the pressure was on in the playoffs, definitely a good sign. Let’s hope that Bowe comes on next year now that Smith knows a little more about what he can do.

    • toperspective

      I have a lot of knocks on Dorsey. His draft was underwhelming and his “major” FA signings have for the most part under performed. His signings have put a lot of pressure on the cap without much on the field benefit. Fasano, Robinson, Avery have all been busts. However, he has done a very good job picking up undrafted and waived players.

      • berttheclock

        The only waste in the draft, in my non-humble opinion, was the FB taken from K-State. However, at the time, as a low round pick there was not money expended and the coaching staff really did need training camp to view the various FBs. However, the trade from Sherman was outstanding and he really opened holes for Charles. But, then, I do agree Dorsey should have consulted more with Dr Seethefuture because the esteemed doc could have advised him Kerce, Cummings and even Nico Johnson were going to become injured. Plus, Knile Davis was going to take some time to really show his excellent form before breaking his leg. The good “Doctor” should have foreseen that as well.

        • toperspective

          Yes, being a hindsight GM has many advantages. Time will tell whether it will be a good draft or not. But for now all you can do is look at the draft as a snapshot in time. The reality is that there were underwhelming contributions from this draft. Maybe next year Fisher will continue to progress and Johnson, Kelce and Commings will be big contributors. I hope so. Is it also unfair to criticise the high profile FA signings from last year since I had the benefit of hindsight?

          • cyberry

            Look at the bright side.. maybe they didn’t contribute because of injuries. But that’s way better than realizing that they couldn’t make plays on the field and didn’t get any playing time because they couldn’t grasp their schemes..

          • toperspective

            True. That’s clearly the case for many of them.

        • NicholasAlanClayton

          Yeah, but whenever you’re getting into the 5th and 6th round range you’re lucky if the guy is even on the team as a special teamer 2-3 years later. Most aren’t. If anything, I was happy to see Dorsey willing to cut the team’s draft picks to make room for waiver-wire guys that he honestly thought was better. That shows that he’s not interested in proving that he was the smartest guy on draft day, he’s interested in constantly having the most talented people in the building he can.

      • NicholasAlanClayton

        The jury is still out on Eric Fisher. He was our worst O-lineman early in the season and had some great games late in the season. He will continue to progress. (Essentially) 2nd-round pick Alex Smith has been worth it. Knile Davis developed into a decent backup for Charles and has great upside. I have a feeling Travis Kelce will be good once he’s healthy, and the rest of the guys are providing depth or were released in favor of other team’s castaways like Marcus Cooper and the like. Picking up undrafted and waived players is part of the drafting process in a sense, and this is about as good as you’ll ever get from a single draft/rookie class. As for the FA pickups, none has been a home run, but with the exception of Robinson, none has been a bust either. We got Avery cheap for about $2 million a year. Fasano only cost us a bit more and his only problem was injuries. He got 3 TD’s in his 9 games on the field, which is pretty good for a two-way TE. The only true bust in terms of cost-benefit ratio has been Bowe, but we all know he can turn it on if he wants to. Here’s hoping he’s more motivated in 2014. Overall, if you consider than Dorsey turned over something like 35 of the team’s 53 roster spots, the fact that only Robinson and Bowe stand out as bad deals is a really good record.

        • toperspective

          Avery was almost $3M and Fasano is a 4.4M hit to the cap. I’d sure the Chiefs would love that cap space being taken by Fasano.

          • NicholasAlanClayton

            Yeah, sure, if any GM knew that one of his players was going to miss seven games to injury before the season he would probably choose someone else or pay him less. Hard to call that a mistake though. Especially considering Fasano played at least 15 of 16 games in 6 of his last 7 seasons (and the one exception was 14 games).

          • toperspective

            We’ll just agree to disagree on his value. I think he was a decent red zone target but he gave them little otherwise. He’s as slow as a glacier. I just don’t view him as much of an offensive threat. If Kelce comes back that could solve the problem but it sounds as if it was a very serious injury.

  • tomhowertonj

    How much is lewis/mcluster set to make or was tbis their last yr under contract. Alas lewis has to go.

    • berttheclock

      2013 was the last year of their respective contracts. Interesting in the difference between the contracts of the two. As Dexter was a higher draft pick, his contract was structured with signing bonuses, whereas, Lewis was paid no signing bonus, but, his yearly pay increased for each year. So, should Lewis not be resigned, the Chiefs would no longer have to pay his $1,323,000 2013 salary which had been a major increase from his 2012 season. There is no dead money for Lewis, whereas, the contract of Dexter was structured in a way where he was on paid approximately $840,000 for 2013 with over $5 M being dead money.

      I would hope Lewis had a very good money manager putting that million three to work making even more money as I can not believe any NFL team in their right mind would ever pay him anything close to that amount. Funny thing about Lewis is Chancellor out of Virginia Tech was selected three spots higher in the draft by Seattle and the career of Chancellor has only become far better, whereas, Lewis, with his many injuries, saw his talent slipping away.

      • micah stephenson

        Lewis may b the scapegoat for this yrs defense (I personally think the pass rush is a bigger problem) but lets not forget that Lewis was better than Mike Brown and the other bum we had back when I thought we had the worse safety tandom in the lg.

        • toperspective

          There are many problems on defense but Lewis is absolutely horrible. Did you see how many tackles he just whiffed on? Worst tackler I’ve ever seen.

        • Deadmeat

          Since the pass rush couldn’t get to the Elite QBs in less than 2 seconds, you think that’s the problem? Our secondary couldn’t cover WRs for more than 2 seconds, I think the pass rush isn’t the only problem.

  • berttheclock

    Correction to the contract of Dexter McCluster. His dead money for 2013 was $560,000, not $5 M.

  • micah stephenson

    I did not like Dorsey signing some of these contracts. D.Colquit is good but i would never pay a punter 3 mill a yr. If you can’t accept min wage as punter go work somewhere else. Fasano makes to much. Avery makes too much.

    • berttheclock

      micah, let your fingers do the walking and check out the 2013 salaries of NFL punters. Colquitt is at Number 12 and his inside the twenty average is very much a solid part of the defensive scheme. You may not want to punt very often, but, most teams do have to punt. Denver doesn’t punt often and his brother makes a few hundred thousand more than Dustin. The Bolts pay Schifre $3 M, whereas the Colts not only made their punter one of the highest in the NFL, but, made him their franchise tag and I do believe Mr Grigson know something about putting a NFL team together. Speaking of the Colts, I suggest you go back and view the problems Lewis was having in adjusting his Canon zoom lens while stumbling far behind Mr Hilton towards the end zone. The pass came on a very quick release and the lack of pass rush had little to do with the TD.

      • tm1946

        Know you are credible with what you say but…. Are all teams in this same situation? Supposedly A. Smith is paid ok at 7 mil, Charles is a bargain, Bowe got a pay day but like it has been pointed out, the best WR we have… do we recover from the situation we are in?

      • micah stephenson

        I don’t care about what everybody else do I’m not paying my punter a lot.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I agree that Robinson and Fasano are overpaid. I’m OK with Daniels and Avery was relatively cheap. Dorsey needs a good off season to win me over completely.

  • tm1946

    I read it and say I understand it but it is to much for this mere fan to understand/accept. How do you go from nobody on the roster to salary cap hell?

    Even if we do all the cutting and restructuring, we are basically broke, salary cap wise. And we need, WR (2?), LT, TE, DE, LBs, DBs, and most importantly long term contract for A. Smith and what about Charles and Houston.

    I am concerned we do not have the proper talent in what is on the 53 man roster and there will have to be a general trashing of what is there…. my opinion a step back.

    • 2dogs

      I guess this is why there’s parity in the NFL. Just when you’re on the brink of top contention you have to unload. Like you said we’re broke and we can’t even pay Charles what he deserves.

      • tm1946

        I am a big fan of Dorsey and Reid but every year the draft HAS to produce their first year and the two blew the last draft. Not saying a bust in the bunch but…..BUT these kids HAVE to contribute their first year or they are just so much dead money.

        • toperspective

          I don’t think you can judge a draft on the 1st year but at this point last years draft looks poor. I think Fisher will pan out but considering he was #1 overall, I sure hope so.

          • berttheclock

            and, here, I thought our 2nd round pick was outstanding and well worth the pick.

          • toperspective

            Better than Geno? :)

    • Lyle Graversen

      Green Bay basically built exclusively through the draft, we’ll see how Dorsey approaches this off season. My guess is that he keeps the core of this roster intact with minimal free agent moves and building through the draft.

  • 2dogs

    These top salaries are crazy. I’m only 100lbs short of muscle, 6″ short of height and a second slow in the 40 to be making some real money!

  • jimfromkcj

    Lyle, restructing contracts just puts you behind the eight ball down the road. I think you can look at the Raiders and see how you deal with the problem. We should look at every player, bar none and compare what we are actually paying for their production. If they don’t stand up to the norm of the successful teams in the NFL, then it is time to bite the bullit and find out what they are really worth on the open market. The Raiders cut a lot of very good players who were not playing up to their contracts and cut them or traded them. Right now at this time looking at the Raiders and the Chiefs, if I had to bet who would go to a super bowl first I would pick the Raiders. They have a huge cap number and in a couple of years they will have their dead money down to manageable proportions and they are in the position to draft better players than the Chiefs.

    • Lyle Graversen

      That’s a little cynical for my taste, the Raiders are starting from scratch while the Chiefs have a foundation of players to build around. I agree the cap situation looks tough, but I’m going to give Dorsey a chance to earn his keep before I get behind the mass cut plan.

      • jimfromkcj

        Lyle, a couple of years ago the Raiders were in essentially the same position the Chiefs are in today. They had a core of excellent players who were overpaid and over the cap and no chance of improving enough to win a super bowl. They made a decision to bite the bullit and release those players who were overpaid and kept them from building a better team. They have a large amount of dead money that will take a couple of years to get rid of, but they have a large surplus building in their cap money. They are also going to be able to draft some quality players in the top of each round for the next couple of years. I still contend that as I see no signs of the Chief’s biting the bullit and trying to hold on to players who aren’t performing up to their salaries that the Raiders will be in position to take over the division when Peyton retires and we will still be in the doldrums whining about curses and bad luck and bad calls of referees.

  • Calchiefsfan

    Thanks Lyle for clarifying the salary caps a little more. I like your idea about restructuring the big 3′s contracts. Never, never dump DJ though, our D would never be the same.
    On a side note, do you think the Fitbit Force sends all that info to the NSA? Big brother is watching you know. Just one more way to track our every move :)

    • Lyle Graversen

      Ha! If the NSA wants to keep a log of my steps taken, calories burned, and quality of sleep I feel sorry for the poor shmuck that has to look over that data!

      • Deadmeat

        Pretty upset with you. I am such a cheapskate, now I want to buy one…pfft!

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Dorsey’s got his work cut out for him. No doubt about that.

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