I’ll admit, the Chiefs “red wedding” free agency period has involved a lot more casualties than I expected. Then again, all Chiefs fans should have heard the Rains of Castamere playing since the end of the season.
In my mind, two things happened on that dreary day on the Green Fork (okay, enough Game of Thrones references/spoilers): 1.) The Chiefs were a victim of their own success. I don’t think any Chiefs fan would have been gung-ho about paying WR Dexter McCluster, DE Tyson Jackson or G Geoff Schwartz $4 million or more per year based on their production up to that point (honestly, I still wouldn’t be). But, 2.) When each of them ended up having a career years, they were then priced out of the equation.
As much of a bummer as it is see all of them go, looking at their contracts one by one, I wouldn’t have favored the Chiefs keeping a single one of them at the price tag they got.
Four years/$16.8 million for a guard that has never been a starter?
Five years/$25 million for a two-down, run-stuffing DE?
Three years/$12 million for a kick returner who’d only had one TD return before 2013? Or is he a wide receiver (that averaged 43 catches per season with the Chiefs)? Or is he a 170-pound running back (who’s only had more than 18 attempts in one season)?
Jon Asamoah has no specific knocks against him, but 5 years/$22.5 million is a lot for any guard. Asamoah is certainly above average, but the average salary for O-linemen is $1.76 million, and that includes high-priced left tackles.
Brandon Albert was the only player the Chiefs lost that could be considered “core” and we’ve known since last offseason that he was going to walk this year. The Chiefs already have a decent replacement and a 1st overall pick waiting behind him in the spot.
All and all, only one thing could have kept these guys on this team going into 2014 — a timely contract extension last offseason or before.
Contract extensions are like bets or purchases of stock. You buy low, sell high.
Going into 2013, the prevailing view was that the Chiefs weren’t confident that they would want to keep guys like McCluster and Jackson even at a low price. They each had their flashes, but neither had made himself into an integral part of the roster. One was a gimmicky, but occasionally electric offensive weapon, the other was a (very) slowly developing immovable object on the D-line. How do you put a value on those kind of pieces?
Well, you don’t pay them the salary of an above-average starter if that’s not what they were. I suspect the Chiefs could have extended both for peanuts last offseason, but at the time the risk appeared higher that these two would never develop into core players.
Still, I think GM John Dorsey and HC Andy Reid would be patting themselves on the back now if they had offered extensions in the $1 million to $2 million per year range with low guarantees that would at least keep them on the team through 2014.
That’s why it is essential that they not make the same mistake this year with QB Alex Smith and OLB Justin Houston, both of him will hit free agency at the end of the season. Smith and Houston both outplayed their contracts last year. We have no reason to suspect they won’t do the same this year.
Smith in particular hit his stride later in the season, and if that is the QB we are going to see for the duration of 2014 — first off, awesome — and secondly, the Chiefs need to extend him now or he will have the team over the barrel if he is headed for the open market.
In a way, it will be both easier and harder to extend Houston. On one hand, the fact that Houston is making less than $900,000 this year, means that it will be easy to offer him an extension that will put money in his pocket now — money that he wouldn’t have gotten if he opted to ride out his contract to the end. On the other hand, with the tiny cap wiggle-room the front office has at the moment, it will be difficult to give him a big pay boost this year. But, it’s worth it if a deal can be done.
According to Joel Thorman’s calculations, the Chiefs now have about $3.4 million of real cap room, taking into account the expected salaries of draft picks. While you always need a little cushion in the cap in case of injury emergencies and or to scoop up another team’s training camp cuts, I’m fine with using about $3 million of that to try and make one or both of these extensions happen.
If Smith and Houston agree to two-to-three year extensions on their current deals with the increase in their 2014 pay being just $1.5 million each, I say Dorsey should jump on it. Obviously it’d be great to lock up Houston long-term as he should be a blue chip Chiefs player for a decade, but if that $3 million can at least lock them down for another year or two to allow the team to get them paid when it has the money to do so, I think that will be cash well spent.
What say you, addicts?