What would a contract extension for Willie Gay Jr. cost the KC Chiefs?

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. is entering the undefeated contract year.
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The Kansas City Chiefs are deep in talks with defensive tackle Chris Jones during his prolonged holdout. It's been a headline grabber for a while now, and it's no secret that the Chiefs' Super Bowl chances are taking a hit without him on the field. But hey, there are other Chiefs players eyeing new contracts too.

One name that's been buzzing is linebacker Willie Gay Jr. His future with the Chiefs is a bit up in the air. 2023 marks the final year of his rookie deal, which only impacts 0.75% of the Chiefs' cap space. But let's not forget that Gay has been showing promise and growth while wearing the Chiefs' colors, adding some sideline-to-sideline speed to the defense.

So, what will the Chiefs do? Extend his contract and invest in his journey, or let him test the free agency waters? It's a tough call, especially with other defensive players needing new contracts too. The Chiefs' front office has got their work cut out for them.

Now, if they decide to keep Gay, they could be in for a sweet deal. The linebacker market has been... surprisingly lukewarm. I mean, I thought linebacker contracts would be bigger in 2022 and 2023, but turns out, not so much. Sure, there are the big names with hefty contracts, but they're the exception. The average contract for an inside linebacker sits around $3,566,615 a year, and only a measly 16 linebackers snag contracts higher than that.

Guess what? Gay is already in the top 30 for inside linebacker salaries, making $1,317,761 annually. That's the linebacker market for you, where values seem to be on the decline. This is pretty good news for the Chiefs if they decide to keep Gay around.

The contract negotiations never stop for the Kansas City Chiefs, who could turn to Willie Gay Jr. next.

Take Drue Tranquil, for example. He had a killer season with the Chargers, but when he came over to the Chiefs, it was on a one-year, $3,000,000 contract. Bargain for a contender? Maybe, but it also hints that other teams might not be throwing the best offers his way. Not exactly a bright forecast for Gay if he hits the open market, especially with his production not exactly yelling "starter material."

So, odds are, Gay's next payday might not be superstar-level. This offseason, only three inside linebackers got multi-year deals, and all of them were more seasoned players on a Pro Bowl level. Gay doesn't quite fit that mold, but his athletic prowess and chemistry with Nick Bolton can't be ignored. He's got a unique skill set and loads of growth potential. If he wants to stick around and keep being Bolton's partner-in-crime, the Chiefs should probably lock him down for more than just one season.

Now, my hunch is that Kansas City might structure a deal with a void year and a lucrative signing bonus to keep Gay in town. This contract would cover 2024 and 2025, with the void year in 2026. Basically, they'd spread out a $4,000,000 signing bonus over three years. The headlines would shout "three-year, $9,000,000 deal," but in reality, Gay would be getting $5,250,000 guaranteed over those three years. It's a win-win: financial stability for Gay and smart salary cap management for the team. Plus, Gay can still flaunt his skills and maybe score an even sweeter deal later on.

My bet? If Gay ups his game and turns heads, he's in for a nice raise next time around. But if his stats stay in the same neighborhood, he might have to settle for a short-term, not-so-lucrative deal with the Chiefs. It's all part of the game.