With free agency set to begin Tuesday, it’s a virtual certainty that the Chiefs will have to make some roster moves.
They currently sit about $5.5 million over the salary cap because of their decision to franchise tag linebacker Justin Houston, and all teams have to be under the cap by the start of the new league year, which again is Tuesday.
The most bandied-about scenario to create cap room involves releasing veteran receiver Dwayne Bowe. The 30-year-old receiver, who is set to have a cap number of $14 million in 2015, has averaged 58 catches and 713 yards in his two seasons under coach Andy Reid, and Bowe was a part of a wide receiving corps that did not score a touchdown all season in 2014.
That makes him an obvious candidate for release. Doing so would create $5 million in cap space in 2015, but stick the Chiefs with $9 million in dead money this season.
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The Chiefs also could designate Bowe as a post-June 1 cut, which will save them $11 million (with $3 million in dead money) in 2015, but there are some catches. First off, doing so would not help them this month; Bowe’s full salary would remain on the books until June 2, which means the Chiefs would not benefit from the additional space unless they like some players who end up being released this summer.
Placing the post-June 1 designation on Bowe would cause the Chiefs to have up to $6 million in dead money in 2016, so they’d essentially be kicking the can down the road on their cap issues.
What might make both sense for both sides is a restructure, though time might be running out on that option. Bowe is still their best receiver, and releasing him would make second-year pro Albert Wilson, who caught 16 passes for 260 yards as a rookie in 2014, their most productive returning player at the position.
“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,” cap analyst Joel Corry told me in The Star’s offseason Chiefs preview. “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.