NFL teams know how much they can spend this offseason.
On Monday, the NFL Players Association announced the salary cap for 2016 has been set at a record $155.27 million, approximately $13 million more than 2015.
According to former agent and salary-cap expert Joel Corry, that leaves the Chiefs with about $32.55 million in cap room as of Monday.
But a portion of that money can be tied up if the Chiefs, who have a number of key defensive players set to hit free agency March 9, opt to use the franchise tag by the deadline of 3 p.m. Tuesday.
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Corry says that two pending Chiefs free agents — safety Eric Berry and cornerback Sean Smith — might make sense for the tag. Berry, 27, served as the emotional leader for the Chiefs in 2015, as he fast-tracked his comeback from Hodgkin lymphoma to record 61 tackles, 10 pass deflections and two interceptions and earned his fourth Pro Bowl nod.
Corry said the Chiefs should consider using the non-exclusive franchise tag on Berry, which will cost $10.8 million. That will allow the team to match any offer Berry receives on the open market, and give the Chiefs two first-round picks as compensation if they don’t match an offer. It’s been years since a team surrendered that type of bounty for a free agent, so the tag would essentially tie Berry to the Chiefs for another year and give them more time to work out a long-term contract.
As for Smith, Corry suggests using the transition tag on him, which will cost $11.9 million. It’s cheaper than a franchise tag — which is $13.9 million — and will allow the Chiefs to potentially match any offer Smith gets on the open market, though they would not get any compensation if they decline.
Smith, 28, had another strong season, recording 45 tackles, 12 pass deflections and two interceptions for the league’s ninth-best pass defense.
The Chiefs can only tag one player per offseason, which means their other pending free agents — a list that includes outside linebacker Tamba Hali, inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, defensive tackle Jaye Howard and offensive guard Jeff Allen — will hit the open market if the Chiefs can’t reach a contract agreement.
If the Chiefs were to tag a player, the amount of their tender would immediately be deducted from their salary-cap space.
2016 franchise tag amounts
Defensive end: $15,701,000
Defensive tackle: $13,615,000
Offensive lineman: 13,706,000
Running back: $11,789,000
Tight end: $9,118,000
Wide receiver: $14,599,000
2016 transition tag amounts
Defensive end: $12,734,000
Defensive tackle: $10,875,000
Offensive lineman: $11,902,000
Running back: $9,647,000
Tight end: $7,713,000
Wide receiver: $12,268,000
NOTE: Numbers are from the NFL Players Association