Jul 26, 2014; St. Joseph, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) signs autographs after practice during training camp at Missouri Western State University. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

How Chiefs Preseason Battles Will Affect Justin Houston, Alex Smith Contracts

We are a week into training camp and the word on possible Alex Smith and Justin Houston extensions have basically been nothing. Smith wants to stay and Andy Reid wants to keep him around, Houston wants to get paid and the Chiefs have room to pay him. It begs the question of why nothing has been finished yet.

The answer may lie in the roster battles going on during training camp.

Kansas City, under 51 top contracts rule, has somewhere between $8 million and $9 million is salary cap space with an additional $2.3 million in rollover salary cap space from the 2013 season. This may not seem like much but the devil is in the details.

For example, the Chiefs are going into with a three player race at quarterback for two roster spots. The contenders are Chase Daniel, Aaron Murray, and Tyler Bray. One of those players – likely either Daniel or Bray – is going to be cut by the end of August. Bray has a salary cap number of $498,333 for the 2013 season while Daniel counts as $3.4 million against the cap. A Bray victory in the quarterback competition would open up about $1 million in cap space for 2014 – money that will likely end up in the pocket of Justin Houston or Alex Smith – and, maybe more importantly, a full $4.8 million in cap space for 2015.

Another example is the battle between Ryan Succop and Cairo Santos. Succop occupies about $2.7 million in cap space this season and another $3.5 million in 2015. Santos’ number for 2014 is estimated around $420,000.

Between those two battles, the Chiefs could potentially save $8.3 million in cap space for 2015 if Bray and Santos win their respective competitions. That money may be the difference in whether or not the Chiefs are able to keep a guy like Rodney Hudson around or make a move for a free agent wide receiver.

The opportunities for the Chiefs to save money while also potentially improving their roster is one of the more underrated aspects of this offseason for John Dorsey. He’s brought in enough competition and made some solid moves to bolster the roster and improve the depth of the team without much to financial room. Not all of these opportunities are as glaring as the Succop/Santos and Daniel/Bray battles but they do exist throughout the roster.

When the Chiefs hit the end of the preseason they could potentially have about $11 million in cap space plus $2.3 million in rollover cap space from 2013. Dorsey could use this space to restructure and extend Smith and Houston to deals that will allow the Chiefs to preserve cap space in the future while still meeting Smith and Houston’s financial demands.

Because of the money that could potentially be opened up in the next five weeks, it shouldn’t be a surprise if we do not hear of a Houston or Smith extension until after the preseason is finish and the 53-man roster has been finalized. Taking advantage of as much of the available cap space for this season to open up future cap space may be the plan for Dorsey when it comes to the contracts with Smith and Houston, and it may also help explain why Smith and Houston are not holding out of camp.

The more money the Chiefs can eat now and defer to 2016 will help the team tremendously in the 2015 offseason. Early projections give the Chiefs only $13 million in cap space in 2015, though that number is expected to grow a little bit with cuts and when the actual cap number is set. Once 2016 comes around the Chiefs will be flooded with cash. As of now the Chiefs have about $90 million in cap space available for 2016. Even if Smith and Houston ate $30 million of that space the Chiefs would still have plenty of room to make key moves and retain Dontari Poe and Eric Berry.


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