The Kansas City Chiefs have yet to make a splash this offseason, mostly because they currently do not have the cap space to do so. The Chiefs are currently around 1.5 million over the cap and that doesn’t include the 5 million they need for draft picks. They also need to extend Patrick Mahomes to the largest contract in NFL history.
Two names come up in talks about freeing cap space: DT Chris Jones and WR Sammy Watkins. Both were key contributors during the Chiefs Super Bowl run and both are fan favorites. Could both be out of Kansas City? Could the Chiefs keep both? Here’s what I think is most likely to happen.
The Chiefs clearly think Chris Jones is valuable. The team franchised tagged him and will owe him $16.1 million this season if they do not sign him to a long-term deal or trade him. You do not risk that type of money on a player if you do not think he’s worth it. Still, 16.1 is a big hit against the salary cap, especially for a player that has shown frustration with the team’s handling of him.
It is rumored that to sign Jones to a long-term deal it would take a deal around 5 years, $100 Million. This would make Jones one of six defensive players paid $20 million a year and the Chiefs already have one of the current five with defensive end Frank Clark. While Jones is an exceptional player, it’s hard to have $40 million a year on your defensive line. I do not think the Chiefs will get a long-term deal done with Jones.
The Chiefs will continue to shop Jones in hopes of finding a potential trade suitor, but it’s going to be difficult for them to find one. The new team would probably have to give up at least one first rounder and another high draft-pick to acquire Jones. Then they would have to sign him to a long-term deal. There are not a lot of teams out there currently interested.
In the end, I believe Chris Jones will be in Kansas City this season, but he will be playing on the franchise-tag. Jones will be unhappy and most likely hold-out. I do not think it will escalate to Jones sitting out the entire season like his friend Jets running back Le’Veon Bell did, but there will be a lot of drama surrounding Jones.
Sammy Watkins is currently set to make $21 million this season. Over his past two regular seasons with the Chiefs, the numbers do not support the contract. Watkins has accumulated 1,192 yards, 92 catches and 6 touchdowns in 24 games and has battled the injury bug like he has most of his career. Cutting Watkins would open up $14 million in cap space but would leave $7 million in dead cap space. Given the Chiefs cap space complications, it seems worth it, right?
There’s one thing holding the Chiefs back from cutting him, Playoff Sammy. Watkins in the playoffs has been nothing short of spectacular. In five playoff games with the Chiefs, Watkins has 24 catches for 464 yards and a touchdown. That’s nearly 20 yards a reception. He also set up the Chiefs go-ahead touchdown in the Super Bowl with a beautiful route against future Hall of Fame CB, Richard Sherman.
It would not take much of an argument to suggest the Chiefs do not win the Super Bowl without Watkins. It was Watkins breaking across the middle that caught the attention of the San Francisco defense and allowed Hill to get open on Jet Chip Wasp. Without Watkins, do the Chiefs have the depth at the WR position to take attention away from Hill and Kelce? Wouldn’t keeping Watkins around ensure another year of growth for Mecole Harman?
While those are all good arguments, I do not believe it is in the Chiefs best interest to bring back Watkins. He is worth too much money and his salary limits what the Chiefs can do this offseason. Even if the Chiefs could restructure his deal, it will still create problems down the road. This year’s draft class is loaded with WRs, and we’ve seen Patrick Mahomes has the ability to make just about anyone look good. Cut Watkins, draft a WR, and focus the remaining money on other positions of need.