The Chiefs can create roughly $53 million in cap room by cutting or restructuring the deals of 11 players this offseason. Obviously, all of these won’t happen. However, the point is that general manager John Dorsey has options.
▪ QB Alex Smith: The Chiefs’ $68 million quarterback isn’t going anywhere, but cap expert and former agent Joel Corry says the Chiefs can free up nearly $8.2 million in cap space by converting Smith’s 2015 base salary of $10.9 million into a signing bonus — a discretionary right teams have been working into contracts more and more. “I don’t know if KC worked that into his contract, but I’m assuming they did,” Corry said. “That’s how Chicago created the cap room with (Jay) Cutler to sign Jared Allen (last season).”
▪ QB Chase Daniel: The Chiefs stand to save $3.8 million by trading or releasing Daniel, but Corry brings up a good point. “Given the fact he’s played well the last two years when you gave him an extended look, do you really want to go to an unproven backup in the event something happens? Quarterbacks get hurt — a lot. Look at Arizona. They’re down to their third-string or fourth-string guy,” Corry said. Still, the Chiefs are trying to develop Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray, so if they do release Daniel, Corry suspects he will come out ahead on the open market — high-end backup quarterbacks typically cost over $4 million.
▪ WR Dwayne Bowe: If the Chiefs were to cut Bowe, they could save $5 million in cap space in 2015. And if they make him a post-June 1 cut, they can save $11 million in 2015, though they’d also have $6 million in dead money in 2016. But if the Chiefs strike out in free agency at the position — it’s unclear whether speedsters Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin will be available — Corry thinks the Chiefs might be better off approaching Bowe for a restructure. “Why not see if he’s open to a pay cut to go from $11 million to $6 million where he can earn it back with reachable incentives,” Corry said. “There’s no dead money at that point, so it would be the same savings as if you were to cut him normally.” Depending on Bowe’s market value, Corry added, a restructured deal might be more than Bowe could make on the open market.
▪ WR Donnie Avery: A core muscle injury kept him out for most of the season, and he just wasn’t the same when he returned in time to see rookie Albert Wilson pull off a reasonable Avery impression. The Chiefs could save $3.5 million by releasing Avery.
▪ WR A.J. Jenkins: The Chiefs will have to make a decision on him early — he’s due a roster bonus of $677,390 on March 12. The Chiefs could save $1.3 million by releasing him.
▪ TE Anthony Fasano: Travis Kelce emerged as the Chiefs’ top tight end this year, and the team stands to save $2 million if they cut Fasano outright. They could also save $3.1 million if they make him a post-June 1 cut. Fasano, however, is a steady veteran and a trusted target of Smith.
▪ DE Mike DeVito: The Chiefs can save $4 million by releasing DeVito, but his run-stopping ability was missed up front, and if he returns to even 85 percent of what he was before his Achilles’ injury, he can help this defense.
▪ DE Vance Walker: The Chiefs signed him to a three-year deal last offseason, and he played well in limited opportunities. Still, the Chiefs could save $1.7 million by releasing him.
▪ OLB Tamba Hali: Corry says the Chiefs have to make a decision on the hardworking, long-time veteran Hali because he’s due a $2 million roster bonus after the new league year begins in March. The Chiefs stand to save $9 million by releasing Hali, but since he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season, Corry suspects Hali will fare just fine on the open market. “You could be doing him a favor,” Corry said, before referring to two veteran pass rushers who hit the market last offseason “DeMarcus Ware is making $13 million in the first year of a big deal, and Julius Peppers is making $8.5 million and he’s coming off a bad year. Hali is supposed to make $9 million in 2015, so he could conceivably make more in 2015 if you let him hit the market.”
▪ ILB Joe Mays: He was the Chiefs’ best inside linebacker once Derrick Johnson got hurt, but Mays only played half the season due to a wrist injury. With the Chiefs expected to look at inside linebackers this offseason, they could save $2.7 million by releasing him.
▪ ILB Derrick Johnson: The Chiefs can save a whopping $5.2 million by cutting Johnson, but he’s in the same boat as DeVito — he was missed greatly after his Achilles’ injury.