Chiefs have challenges ahead to keep defense together

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Sep 29, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) celebrates after the Chiefs recovered a fumble during the second half against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs have a great defense. Last year, the unit ranked seventh in yards allowed and second in points permitted. The pass defense was stellar, finishing only behind the Seattle Seahawks’ famed Legion of Boom. With the renewed health of Derrick Johnson and Mike Devito, and the signing of Tyvon Branch, the group should only be better in 2015.

Unfortunately, this might be the last year we see anything resembling this group before things get messy.

General manager John Dorsey is going to be busy throughout the season and next offseason, trying to figure out who to keep, and who needs to be let go. Let’s list out the projected starters and see which ones are going to be free agents after this campaign.

Free agents to be will be bold:

DE Mike DeVito
NT Dontari Poe
DE Allen Bailey
OLB Justin Houston
ILB Derrick Johnson
ILB Josh Mauga
OLB Tamba Hali
CB Sean Smith
CB Marcus Peters
FS Ron Parker
SS Husain Abdullah

Also, don’t forget about Eric Berry, who may or may not be able to play this season after finishing treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Currently, Kansas City has $48.75 million in cap space for 2016, according to Over The Cap. That figure is based on a projected salary cap number of $150 million. That amount of space ranks eighth among NFL teams.

The good news is simple: the offense is already taken care of. While Donald Stephenson and Jeff Allen are set to become free agents, nobody else of note will be for the foreseeable future. Dorsey also has special teams squared away, so this money can all be dedicated to the defense and the 2016 draft class.

Of the seven starters who are set to see their contracts expire, including Berry, none of them are mediocre or poor players. However, let’s go case-by-case and see where each man stands.

Next: Who stays, who goes?