According to this projection from Over The Cap, those two cuts should move the Kansas City Chiefs from the red to the black for the 2015 salary cap—about $2 million in the black to be more specific. I would call that a good start.
In terms of potential cuts, Jenkins and Avery hadn’t been widely discussed—at least not when compared to names like Dwayne Bowe. But parting ways with these two receivers has made sense for a while.
Injuries limited both players last season, but neither had shown great promise in helping to rejuvenate or reenergize the receiving corps. Even when healthy, it was questionable how much they would be able to contribute.
In making these cuts, the Chiefs took a step in the right direction for being able to re-sign Justin Houston and improve other positions. Unfortunately, that step is only a baby step. Using the same projections from Over The Cap, that $2 million surplus turns into a nearly $7.5 million deficit just by assuming that Houston receives the franchise tag, which appears to be likely at this point in time. That means that there may still be a lot of other moves to be made just to break even after ensuring that Houston stays around for at least another year.
There is, however, one cut that could erase the entirety of that deficit: Tamba Hali.
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Hali is scheduled to have the third-highest cap hit on the team in 2015, behind only Alex Smith and Bowe. However, cutting Hali would save the Chiefs the most money, by far, if he was cut now.
I’ll be the first to admit that I hate the thought of parting ways with Hali. I have loved watching him play since he was drafted by the Chiefs in 2006. He has consistently given opposing quarterbacks nightmares and played in all but three regular-season games in his career (one each in 2007, 2012, and 2013). He was a pass-rushing cornerstone on the field and has not caused problems or distractions off of it.
I recently wrote that I thought Hali would renegotiate. I think there is still a good possibility of that happening, as I believe Hali will be more willing to do so than Bowe. And if this post from Hali’s Instagram account is to be believed, then it would seem he wants to remain in Kansas City. If that is true, then it lends credibility to the notion that he may renegotiate in the name of cap space.
So why would I ask whether the Chiefs should cut him?
Because cutting Hali will free $9 million of cap space, and franchising Houston is, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, expected to cost north of $13 million. In essence, cutting the old guard of the Chiefs’ pass rush could almost fully fund retaining the new guard. It also allows the Chiefs to use the savings from their other moves to focus on their remaining needs.
Though possible, it is not certain that reworking Hali’s contract could provide that kind of savings.
Dec 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali (91) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chiefs 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
As much as Hali has brought and continues to bring to the team, he is also going to turn 32 years old during this November. And though his stats were good in 2014, he had the second-fewest combined tackles (59) of any full season he has played. His sack numbers were also down; six being the second-lowest total of career.
Hali’s performance was still good enough to earn another trip to the Pro Bowl, and he would undoubtedly have a positive impact on the defense if he comes back. But is that worth having a 30-plus-year-old pass-rusher taking up the third-most cap space on your roster?
A couple of years ago, the answer to that question would have been “yes.” But that decision gets a little more difficult when you step back and look at it in the larger context of where the Chiefs stand as an organization, especially in light of how little cap space they currently have.
Hali is no longer the rock of the Chiefs pass rush. His (hopeful) replacement, Dee Ford, was a first-round pick last year and is waiting in the wings. Regardless of what happens with Houston’s contract, Kansas City should be returning Dontari Poe, Allen Bailey, Derrick Johnson, and Mike DeVito. So while the defense will be affected, it will still be in good hands.
I would love to see the Chiefs ensure that No. 91 never wears another uniform. But a $12 million cap number is simply too big to carry into next season. Something has to give.
As sad as it is, that something may end up being Tamba Hali’s spot on the team.