As reported by Terez Paylor early Friday morning, Sammy Watkins has agreed to a new one-year deal with the Chiefs that will pay him $9 million base salary with the potential to reach $16 million in incentives. Watkins new deal saves $5 million in cap space for the Chiefs.
What are the next steps for the Chiefs following Watkins new deal? How does the new contract affect the team and other players?
The first step for the Chiefs is to now focus on Chris Jones. Currently, the Chiefs now have $5 million in cap space, but Chris Jones owns a $16.1 million cap hit with it being on the franchise tag. Adding the $5 million from the Watkins deal gives the Chiefs the money to sign him long-term. Subtracting the $16.1 million cap hit Jones has right now, the Chiefs have over $21 million to sign him. The Chiefs have made it a top priority to sign Jones long-term. There have been rumors of trades, but the team wants to keep Jones, not trade him. Jones also wants to be in Kansas City. With Watkins new deal, the Chiefs have the money to sign Jones. A deal for Jones would lower his cap hit this season and be a backloaded deal. The team needs additional money for the draft and the rest of free agency, such as re-signing CB Bashaud Breeland. Jones is the second-best IDL in the entire NFL (only behind Aaron Donald) and is a key player in the Chiefs defense. Jones is the anchor of the front line and has shown he deserves to be paid. In my opinion, without his play in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs do not win. Jones was constantly doubled by the 49ers offensive line and still got pressure on Garoppolo while having three passes defended. Now is the time to pay Chris Jones. The money is there and both sides want a deal to happen.
The next step is to look at the salary cap and ask for restructures and pay cuts. The Chiefs have a few candidates who could be asked to restructure or take a pay cut. The first candidate is LT Eric Fisher. Fisher has a current cap hit over $14.9 million this season. Fisher restructured his deal last year, but it is needed again this year. Brett Veach has done a terrific job of keeping the team together, but there is still talent on the market that the Chiefs can add and to bring back Breeland, there is still work to be done with the cap. Another candidate is RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Tardif currently has a cap hit of over $8.9 million. LDT signed a contract extension in 2017 for five years, worth over $42 million. Tardif and Schwartz make a great right side of the line, but with the current cap situation, LDT is a prime candidate to help the cap situation. LB Anthony Hitchens is another candidate. Hitchens current cap hit is over $12.6 million. Hitchens has been a three-down LB over the past two seasons. Hitchens is a solid run-stopping LB, but he needs speed alongside him to compliment his strength. Hitchens owns the seventh-highest cap hit on the team and the Chiefs need to add to the LB unit. Another potential candidate is DE Alex Okafor. The defensive line has some depth and his cap hit could cause him to be asked to restructure or he could be gone.
The following step is trades and cuts. The only trade that I really see as of right now is DE Alex Okafor. Okafor has a cap hit over $7 million this season and trading him post-June 1, would save the Chiefs over $5 million. Okafor suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle last season in the first season of a three-year deal. Tanoh Kpassagnon has developed really well and with Breeland Speaks coming back following a significant knee injury before the season started last year. Okafor would most likely have to restructure or take a pay cut to stay with the Chiefs with the current salary cap situation. A couple of cuts that I could see are S Daniel Sorensen and P Dustin Colquitt. Cutting both Sorensen and Colquitt saves the Chiefs $5.75 million, which could go in to bring back Breeland or adding another corner. I will put it out there that I do not want either to be cut, but it is a possibility. Another name is Alex Okafor as a post-June 1 cut saved the team $3 million. I don’t think the Chiefs will cut Okafor unless they are desperate for cap and it’s the last case scenario and can’t find a trade partner if they go that route. Duvernay-Tardif could be another candidate if he won’t restructure or take a pay cut. However, it is like Okafor and that is a last case scenario.
Now, let’s look at some of the effects of Watkins new deal.
The first one is for Watkins and the Chiefs going forward. The Chiefs love Watkins and never wanted to get rid of him, and that is why they worked so hard to get keep him. In his new deal, the Chiefs gave Watkins a very rare no-trade clause. I thought there was a possibility that the deal could have made Sammy more lucrative in trades, but I am happy he is staying for sure. This is a great deal for Sammy and the Chiefs. It brings back Sammy at a cheaper cost and saves cap space while making the team better as he will play even harder and be more successful through his incentives. For Sammy, it keeps him in KC and he loves it with the Chiefs. Sammy also has the opportunity to put himself in a position to make millions next season as his performance incentives could play a huge role. Also, this could be a stepping stone to an extension beyond this season. Like I said, Watkins and the Chiefs have a mutual love affair and if Sammy would sign an extension at a reasonable price for the Chiefs, he would be a Chief for years to come.
Another effect is Mecole Hardman. Hardman was set to have a larger role in the offense this year as the potential WR2 or WR3, depending on the free agency of Demarcus Robinson and if Sammy Watkins was returning. Now, both wide receivers are returning to the team and that means Hardman’s role will not be as heavy. Hardman showed a ton of potential last year. He recorded 538 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns on 26 receptions. In addition, Hardman had four rushes for 17 yards and a touchdown. This season is probably going to be another developmental year for Hardman, but expect more from him in his second year like Tyreek Hill did in his second season.
The Watkins deal has an effect on the Patrick Mahomes extension. Mahomes extension is now probably going to be pushed back further to give the team more time to create more cap space. Regardless of when it happens, Mahomes is going to be paid by the Chiefs, even though I think he will go the Brady route and take less money from the Chiefs, making more from his sponsorships. The effect is the timetable of Mahomes extension as he enters the fourth year of his rookie contract.
The final impact I will mention is that Watkins new deal is that the offense is back and pretty much set. Damien Williams’ option was picked up and is looking like the starting running back next season. The entire WR core of Hill, Watkins, Hardman, and Robinson is back for another year keeping the chemistry. Of course there is Mahomes. Mahomes has his entire arsenal back and the chemistry is still intact and the offense is set to be one of the league’s best, if not the best, again this upcoming season. The only spot to address is the OL, which will likely come in the draft. Another area that might see an addition is RB in the draft, but it shouldn’t be in the first round at all. The defense needs to be addressed in the first two rounds, especially CB and LB. The Chiefs only have five picks in the draft and the team can wait to grab a RB from a deep field if they want to add to the position. The most important aspect here is that Mahomes arsenal is back and the dynamic WR unit is back for another year with the NFL’s best QB.
The Chiefs and Brett Veach have a lot of work to do, but the signing of Watkins brings good news to the team as big decisions loom ahead.