Being Brett: Cap Magic

The 2020 NFL offseason is young, but soon to be bustling and although the Chiefs are reigning world champions, it is never too early to begin acting as though you are the GM that you very much are not. There is, of course, nothing wrong with being an armchair GM. After all, I am just as much an armchair GM as you are or as Brett Veach once was. It is no secret that the Kansas City Chiefs are stuck between a rock and a hard place in regards to the salary cap this offseason. This place, however, may be more spacious then one would expect and is adding another contract at $20,000,000 a year for a certain defensive tackle as far-fetched as we have been led to believe? So, without further ado my beloved reader, allow me to enlighten you on how the Chiefs can win the offseason.

The Salary Cap

The Chiefs are currently sitting $13,749,494 in cap space, a less than ideal situation. There are, however, roughly a dozen cap saving moves that can be made, but that does not mean they need to be. I will focus on just five moves that would immediately allow the Chiefs to comfortably sign Chris Jones and Patrick Mahomes to mega-extension’s and maintain future flexibility.

First and foremost, two players will get the Mitchell Schwartz treatment this offseason. Last year Schwartz received an extension that raised his cap number in 2020 and 2021 but lowered his cap hit in 2019. The two players that will be receiving extensions are Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins. To extend Kelce, he will need to become the league’s highest-paid tight end, again. With market-setting contracts for elite tight ends like Austin Hooper and George Kittle looming, Kelce will be seeking a massive raise in the near future. The type of raise I am talking about comes in the form of a four-year extension worth $56,250,000. So how does this save cap space? It is simple, you turn part of Kelce’s 2020 base salary into a signing bonus on the new extension. Without getting exhaustingly specific, this would save the team roughly $5,500,000 in cap space and keep Kelce in Kansas City through the 2025 season. This move alone would bump the team up to $19,250,000 in cap space. Now let’s do the same with Sammy “Lizard King” Watkins as we just did with Kelce. Watkins is an interesting study because he has not quite lived up to the massive contract that the Chiefs gave him back in 2018. However, I believe that a mutually beneficial three-year extension worth $45,200,000 would not only excite Watkins, but also the Chiefs because this move would save a whopping $10,000,000 in cap space this season. Between these two moves alone, the Chiefs are now sitting just south of $30,000,000 in cap room. Now for the part that no one likes, but a necessary evil none the less. Dirty Dan Sorensen, you have served us well. You may even be one of the main reasons that the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, but your time in Kanas City has come to an end because your release saves the team a healthy $3,750,000. Next, thank you, Cam Erving, for your services, but by declining the option, the team frees up another $4,680,000. Last, but certainly not least and arguably the most painful, I will be trading “The Doctor”. Laurent Duverney-Tardif has been a fantastic RG, but this is one of those ugly John Dorsey contracts that has got to go and saving another $5,000,000 is no cause for panic. I will go more in-depth on the trade later in this article, but for now, all that matters is that the last three moves I outlined above puts the team at $42,680,000 in available cap space. 

Time to Spend Money

By now you probably expect Chris Jones to return to Kanas City on a massive extension, well you are wrong, I will be trading him to the Raiders. I am joking, so relax reader and put the pitchfork down, this is going to be fun. Chris Jones signs a five-year extension worth $101,250,000 that is basically identical in structure to what Frank Clark received the last offseason. In 2019, Clark’s backloaded contract only hit the team with a $6,500,000 cap hit. The same will be done with Jones, but he will have a $9,680,000 cap hit in 2020 and cap hits of $22,892,500 in the final four years of his contract. This move will effectively drop the team down to $33,000,000 in available cap. Next, let me explain why I traded(or may cut) Duverney-Tardif. Not only will he free up cap space in 2020, but it will also free up a combined $15,750,000 in 2021 and 2022 for a certain quarterback. The team acquiring The Doctor will be traded to the Washington Redskins who decide not to make Brandon Scherff the league’s highest-paid offensive guard and instead opt for a more affordable option. In return, the Chiefs will receive a disgruntled Quinton Dunbar, who according to PFF, grading out as the second-best starting cornerback during the regular season. After doing so, the Chiefs reward the 28-year-old Dunbar with a healthy three-year extension worth $27,000,000 to tie him to Kansas City through his age 31 season. This move would set the Chiefs back another $6,500,000 in 2020 after giving him a slight pay raise this season via his signing bonus. Let’s however, provide an alternative option at cornerback just in case we are unable to agree to the aforementioned trade. One way or another, the team moves on from LDT, but instead of sending him to Washington for a cornerback, the Chiefs look in house and give Bashaud Breeland the exact same three year, $27,000,000 contract with the same $6,500,000 cap hit in 2020. Next up is Charvarius Ward who is set to become a restricted free agent after the 2020 season and is currently eligible for an extension. He opts to capitalize on his stellar 2019 campaign by signing a four-year deal worth $46,500,000. Why would he sign this deal now? Well, because he skips his restricted free agency in 2021 which would only net him a few million dollars assuming the Chiefs choose to tender him. Once again, I roll some of the signing bonus on a new deal into the current year, this time for Ward, and his cap hit goes up to $2,500,000 from the previous $660,000. After locking down two starting cornerbacks for at least the next three seasons, the team is sitting at roughly $25,000,000 to spend on other key free agents and draft picks. One last in-house player that I would bring back is defensive end, Emmanuel Ogbah. At one point he was leading the team in sacks and total pressures before he landed on IR with a torn pec. He takes a one year prove it deal at $4,500,000 for 2020, stays healthy, performs well, and capitalizes during the 2021 offseason. Now, you are probably wondering about Patrick Mahomes and his mega-deal. How, after all these moves will that contract fit? Well here goes nothing. After exercising Pat’s 5th-year option valued at roughly $25,000,000 for the 2021 season, he receives a five year, $208,500,000 contract (which will not begin until 2022) keeping him in Kansas City for the next seven years. We opt to prorate $8,500,000 of his signing bonus in 2021, which bumps the cap hit up to $33,500,000. We, however, opt not to apply any bonus money to the 2020 season because it is simply not necessary. The remainder of his contract will consist of $200,000,000 spread over five years. 

So where do we stand now? Without taking into account a potentially massive salary cap increase in 2021 via a new collective bargaining agreement, these moves have the Chiefs sitting at just over $20,000,000 in available cap space this offseason for draft picks, other free agents, and a rainy day fund or rollover. The cap for 2021 gets a little more uncomfortable, but still not a problem at roughly $9,000,000 in available cap space. Again, this is without any additional cap saving moves (outside of Duverney-Tardif) or the expected cap spike. All of the moves I have outlined above set the Chiefs up as a dynasty for many years to come without putting the team in a tough position as most might expect. This is absolutely a testament to general manager Brett Veach and his ability to execute properly structured contracts after taking over for John Dorsey. Are you not entertained?