The future of star Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles in Kansas City has been, and likely will continue to be, a much-discussed topic for the next few months.
The Chiefs are currently projected to have about $4.1 million in cap room this offseason, according to OverTheCap.com, and can save approximately $6.1 million by releasing him.
Charles, who turned 30 in December, is coming off a season in which he logged 14 touches and failed to make an impact after rehabbing an anterior cruciate ligament that was torn in October 2015. But when asked Thursday if Charles will be a Chief in 2017, general manager John Dorsey gave a non-commital answer that left the possibility open.
“Jamaal Charles is one of the finest running backs that’s ever put on a Kansas City Chiefs uniform,” Dorsey said. “What I admire most about Jamaal Charles is right now, at this present, he is working like the dickens to try and get himself ready for the 2017 season. We’ll see what happens in March and April, but right now, I see Jamaal as a Kansas City Chief.”
Charles also had minor surgeries on both knees in November that landed him on injured reserve. And while there was some internal optimism that he’d be able to return before the end of the season, an injury to Derrick Johnson led the Chiefs to activate Justin March-Lillard from injured reserve before their playoff run.
Dorsey also said on Thursday that there are financial models to keep both safety Eric Berry and defensive tackle Dontari Poe on the team.
“We have had had very positive conversation’s with his representatives,” Dorsey said of Berry, who said last week that he has no desire to play under the franchise tag for a second straight year.
Without new contracts, the Chiefs can retain the services of either Poe or Berry with the franchise tag. NFL teams have until March 1 to designate franchise or transition players, but to re-sign or tag even one of them, the Chiefs likely need to make some moves to create cap room.
The Chiefs have few options to clear a significant amount of space with only a few moves. Other than releasing Charles, the team could release backup quarterback Nick Foles and save $10.75 million.
Dorsey endorsed Alex Smith to be the team’s quarterback next season.
“We’ve said all along he is the starter — I don’t know what more you want to say,” Dorsey said. “He’s led this franchise to three playoff seasons out of four, which is pretty good in my eyes.”
Dorsey was also asked if the Chiefs have any interest in Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who has been bandied about as a possible fit. Dorsey declined to address the player directly, citing his long-standing rule against commenting on other team’s players, but he did shrug off a question about whether he’d consider fielding offers for Smith.
“All the hypotheticals about trades and all that … I’m right now worried about fostering the plan for this organization, not only on the pro football side of it but the college side of it, too,” he said.
Dorsey also said he doesn’t anticipate outside linebacker Justin Houston, who missed parts of 2016 because of knee issues, having any additional surgery this offseason.