Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is headed to training camp after agreeing Wednesday afternoon to a two-year contract extension with the team.
“Jamaal is an elite player in the National Football League,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said in a release. “It was important for us to keep him here in Kansas City long-term.”
The Chiefs did not release terms of the deal, but a person with knowledge of the situation also told The Star that Charles is set to earn more than $18 million in new money from the agreement, including $5.1 million more than he had been set to make over the next two years.
Charles will earn $8.3 million this year, which will make him the second-highest-paid running back this year, behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.
Shortly after the news broke, Charles — who had been relative quiet on Twitter lately — posted an amusing tweet.
“I had no intention on holding out … I just ran out of gas on the way to camp,” it read.
Charles didn’t show from noon to 1 p.m., when the Chiefs allowed reporters to watch the veterans enter their dormitory at Missouri Western. He also didn’t show in the next hour, when a few veterans trickled in before the deadline. But he will be present today.
A source told The Star on Wednesday that outside linebacker Justin Houston, who is also seeking a new deal, was in camp and would be present for the first practice for veterans, which is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today.
“From what I hear, he’s going to be here,” said outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who combined with Houston for 22 sacks last season. “We’re going to get it rocking again — Sack City. Whatever happened in the offseason, we put all of that behind us. He’s here to play football just like every other man. That’s our concern — get to that quarterback.”
Charles cashed in on a career season in which he led the Chiefs in both rushing and receiving, finishing with 259 carries for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns and hauled in 70 catches for 693 yards and seven touchdowns.
Charles, who turns 28 in December, had two years left on a six-year, $28 million contract he signed in 2010. The two-year extension gives him more money up front and keeps him under contract through 2017.
After hearing the terms of the deal, ESPN NFL business analyst Andrew Brandt — who served as a Green Bay Packers’ vice president from 1999 to 2008 and worked with Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey in the past — said the deal shouldn’t be too cost-prohibitive for the Chiefs.
“He’s getting the bulk of it this year, so to me, it sounds like all NFL contracts — the numbers aren’t what they appear to be,” Brandt said. “You’re really talking about $5 million over the next two years. Then after that, it will be: ‘We’ll see how he’s playing.’”
Under his previous contract, Charles had cap numbers of $5.2 million in 2014 and $7.3 million in 2015 and was scheduled to be paid $3.9 million (including bonuses) in 2014 and $6 million in 2015. After the next two years, Charles will be 29 years old when the two-year extension kicks in, which is a typically an age where running backs start to decline.
Charles, however, is clearly the Chiefs’ best player. And while Brandt said other teams might have ignored his pleas for a new deal, especially with two years left, he understood why the Chiefs wanted to take care of an elite player who shines on the field and is a valued team leader.
“There’s something to it,” Brandt said.
But he also cautioned that there are always consequences in extending players who have more than one year left on their existing deals.
“But is that saying Alex Smith is not that person? Is that saying Justin Houston not that person? You have to be careful, because with everything you do in a front office, you get reaction,” Brandt said. “Every agent will look at this and say, ‘If my client has two years left on his deal and he’s playing well, I’m going to them (about getting more). And teams can always say, ‘Well, that guy’s special.’ But people don’t like to hear, ‘He’s special and you’re not.’”
Still, Charles is. And according to Spotrac.com, his original base salary of $2.6 million this season ranked 11th in the NFL among running backs, behind players such as Steven Jackson of Atlanta and Reggie Bush of Detroit, whose production didn’t come close to matching what Charles did last season, when he made his third Pro Bowl.
Prior to Charles’ extension, the Chiefs had $9.4 million in cap space, according to NFL Players Association records. Salary cap expert and former agent Joel Corry said a significant portion of the Chiefs’ current space will need to be allotted to Houston, whose cap number of $1.6 million will increase exponentially if he earns a deal in the neighborhood of Tamba Hali’s five-year, $56 million extension.