AA interview: Joel Corry breaks down Chiefs cap situation

Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs free safety Eric Berry (29) reacts after intercepting a pass against the Houston Texans during the first quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas City Chiefs free safety Eric Berry (29) reacts after intercepting a pass against the Houston Texans during the first quarter in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

On Thursday afternoon, CBS Sports and National Football Post cap analyst, and former NFL agent Joel Corry took time out of his schedule to talk with Arrowhead Addict about the Kansas City Chiefs and their upcoming offseason. As most of you are well-aware, the Chiefs have a huge challenge ahead with Sean Smith, Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Jaye Howard and others hitting the open market.

There has been plenty of talk that the Chiefs can’t possibly keep them all together, but some folks don’t buy into that logic. Long-term contracts that feature big money always see the first year have a lower cap number because of bonuses being paid out at signing, helping Kansas City to fit in its budget.

Here’s the conversation that Corry and I had about what to expect in the coming months.

Q: When the cap is set and the rollover money is factored in, how much cap space will Kansas City have?

A: I’m assuming the high end is $153.4 million because the cap has come in higher than what the teams were given in recent years. This would put the Chiefs at $32.875 million. That’s before looking at Tamba Hali who’s contract will void at March 4 if he doesn’t have a new deal.

Q: Do you see Eric Berry or Sean Smith getting the larger contract?

A: Smith, because he plays a position where the pay rate is much higher. You only have one safety making more than $10 million, you have multiple corners including Byron Maxwell. The fact that Maxwell, who is mediocre, makes more than the highest-paid safety, kind of tells you how this will shake out.

Q: You have previously stated that you don’t believe Smith will be back. Why?

A: I didn’t think will be back because Smith will make a straight money grab because the first time he was a free agent, he was in the worst free agent market for corners in years. … He might be a straight highest-bidder guy and a team to keep an eye on wears silver and black. Ken Norton comes from a place where the corners were big in Seattle, and he plays man-to-man.

Q: Sean Smith is a terrific player, but he turns 29 in training camp. How much does that hurt his value on the open market, and how many years do you think he gets?

A: It will be like a four-year deal, and the guarantees will be in the same neighborhood of Maxwell. … you have a guy who has proven he can be a number one corner. You are not making a projection with Smith like you did with Maxwell.

Q: We saw Derek Wolfe sign for $9 million per year and Mike Daniels fetch $10 million per year earlier this season. Is there reason to believe Jaye Howard gets less?

A: Howard is looking to break the bank from what I understand. If someone wants to pay him like Rodney Hudson was in Oakland, more power to him. You can only pay so many people and if you plan on taking care of Dontari Poe, you can only go so far. That’s the kind of neighborhood Howard is going to be looking at. You can’t go above Allen Bailey to me.

Q: Derrick Johnson is an all-timer, but he’s 33 years old and has publicly stated he wants to be in Kansas City. What do you expect him to sign for?

A: The appropriate comparison is Karlos Dansby in Cleveland, who signed that deal at 33 and it was four years and $24 million with $12 million guaranteed. I think maybe you go for three years and maybe you get him to come back for the $5.25 million that he got this year. That would be even better.

Q: Last year, there was talk about re-structuring Alex Smith’s contract to save cap space. Is that still an option and if so, how much would the Chiefs save?

A: They are at a place cap-wise where they don’t need to do it. They are home free after this year if you want to be, so why compound the problem? I thought they might have to do it because of that huge franchise number placed on Justin Houston last year, but they are a much better situation. … Plus, he has dropped so far down the totem pole compensation wise, the deal that was criticizes is now reasonable.

Q: Tamba Hali contract is set to void and will be a $3 million cap hit regardless. Any way he’s not back at a good price?

A: As long as they get the deal done before the void, the money won’t hit. It will just be the $1 million proration. I assume they will do the four-year deal and take out the void. I don’t know that the cap hit will be under $3 million … but for him, since he made $6 million last year, he is already in take-less mode. … Really his market, if he wants value, is $8.5-10 million per year because that is what older pass-rushers like Julius Peppers and Jared Allen got.

Q: Does Jamaal Charles have reason to worry about his contract?

A: My experience as an agent is when there are viable options, a high-priced older vet, particularly coming off a major injury, they can be vulnerable. He has a $2 million bonus for training camp in July. If they really wanted to put him in a precarious position, they could approach him for a re-structure to take less money this summer and have him between a rock and a hard place because other teams have spent their money. … They may just leave him alone, but they won 10 games without him, 11 counting the playoffs, and were still effective running the football. It screams that they (Charles’ representatives) should be worried about that.

Next: The West-Kelce bromance

Corry notes…

  • Corry says that while the Chiefs could sing all of their major free agents, it would put them in a bind moving forward. Ultimately, Dorsey would be in a position of having to cut or trade some players, incurring a ton of dead money.
  • If there is one player that Kansas City would be willing to use the franchise tag on, it would be Eric Berry. Berry’s tag would be a shade under $10.7 million. If the Chiefs wanted to tag Smith, it would cost $14 million.
  • After this season, Eric Fisher’s contract is hitting their fifth-year option of $11.5 million. Corry says look to Minnesota for clues on how the Chiefs will handle the situation. Matt Kalil was an underachieving left tackle taken early in the draft and has an $11.096 million option. What do the Vikings do between now and the March 9 deadline?

Follow Joel at @corryjoel, it’s the best decision you will make this month.