The Chiefs officially received a bit of good news Monday evening, which is a feeling it appears they’ve become quite accustomed to, recently.
Only two weeks into an offseason in which the Chiefs signed their future No. 1 receiver, filled a massive hole at guard and renegotiated several key deals to create more cap space, they also watched the league officially announce that they will receive four compensatory picks in this year’s draft, bringing their overall total to 10, at this year’s annual NFL meetings.
Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said general manager John Dorsey is excited to have a full cupboard of draft picks at his disposal for the first time since he and coach Andy Reid arrived shortly after the 2012 season. The Chiefs dealt away their second-round picks in 2013 and 2014 for quarterback Alex Smith.
“He’s been excited about it for about a year,” Hunt said with a laugh. “Certainly a year ago, when we lost some players that were an important part of the franchise, that’s always a bitter pill to swallow. But you do look forward to a year down the road, getting those compensatory picks.”
The Chiefs will receive a third pick (98th overall), two fifths (172nd and 173rd) and a sixth (217th) in this year’s draft, which was music to the ears of Hunt, who is thrilled about the team’s offseason.
“I’ll just be honest, from my perspective, John and the team exceeded my expectations in terms of what I thought they’d possibly be able to do,” Hunt said. “You always want to do a lot of things, and it’s a given that you’re never going to be able to accomplish all that you want to do. But they came pretty close to getting an A-plus on the exam.”
In many ways, it was a nice bounceback after a 2013 offseason that was marked by the free-agent loss of seven players who started multiple games for them in 2013: tackle Branden Albert (who signed with Miami), receiver Dexter McCluster (Tennessee), guard Geoff Schwartz (New York Giants), guard Jon Asamoah (Atlanta), inside linebacker Akeem Jordan (Washington), defensive end Tyson Jackson (Atlanta) and safety Quintin Demps (New York Giants).
Last offseason, the Chiefs signed defensive tackle Vance Walker, inside linebacker Joe Mays, guard Jeff Linkenbach and cornerback Chris Owens, but Walker and Mays were released this offseason, while Linkenbach and Owens signed one-year deals and have not been re-signed.
Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. The number of picks a team receives — which are always positioned through the third through seventh rounds and are based on an NFL formula — equals the net loss of compensatory free agents, up to a maximum of four.
The Chiefs, along with Denver and Seattle, were the only teams in the league to receive the maximum this year.
“John, like most GMs and certainly like I believe philosophically, likes building the team through the draft,” Hunt said. “So when you have those extra picks, it sure makes it easier.”
The last time the Chiefs had this many picks was 2008, when they came away with Albert, Jamaal Charles, Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr.
There’s a good chance all those picks will come in handy, too, because it’s not like the Chiefs have a ton of room for more maneuvering this offseason. After a flurry of signings, cuts and restructured contracts, the Chiefs are approximately $2,845,675 under the cap, which is the second-smallest amount in the league. Only the New Orleans Saints, who have $764,806 in cap space, have less.
That means Chiefs will still need to create additional cap space to sign their draft class, which typically takes between $5 million and $6 million.
The updated cap figure includes all the significant moves the Chiefs have made recently, including the signing of No. 1 receiver Jeremy Maclin, guard Paul Fanaika and safety Tyvon Branch and re-signings of inside linebacker Josh Mauga, safety Ron Parker, receiver Jason Avant, tight end Richard Gordon and safety Kelcie McCray.
The figure also includes the renegotiated deals the Chiefs recently struck with defensive end Mike DeVito, outside linebacker Tamba Hali and guard Ben Grubbs, which lowered each player’s 2015 cap number.
The Chiefs might create more cap room by agreeing to a lower contract with safety Eric Berry, who is still battling lymphoma, and releasing or renegotiating the deal of backup quarterback Chase Daniel.
A big reason for their cap issues is the significant amount of dead money they have tied up in several players that have been released, including receiver Dwayne Bowe ($9 million), cornerback Brandon Flowers ($4 million), tight end Anthony Fasano ($2.2 million), defensive end Vance Walker ($2 million), kicker Ryan Succop ($1 million) and inside linebacker Joe Mays ($1 million).
The good news is that the Chiefs, at least at this point, should not have the same cap issues at this point next year. According to NFLPA records, they only have $92 million in committed salary toward the 2016 season, which means that even if the league-wide salary cap number of $142 million stays the same — which is unlikely, because it has only gone up every year — they still stand to have roughly $50 million in cap room.
And while that number could be eaten up some by the 2015 draft class, another franchise tag for Justin Houston, a fifth-year option for defensive tackle Dontari Poe or an extension for cornerback Sean Smith, that’s still more than enough money for the Chiefs to be spenders next year — provided it makes sense, of course.
“Like I said at the 101 Awards banquet, when the opportunities present themselves with the right guys at the right positions, you need to take advantage of those opportunities,” Hunt said. “And John did a masterful job all the way around, whether it was reworking contracts or re-signing some guys or bringing in the new players via free agency.
“It’s a puzzle, and he was able to make all the jigsaw pieces fit.”