We are just over two weeks away from the start of the 2020 NFL year on March 18th. In that time the Kansas City Chiefs will need to clear some cap space, luckily there are some easy moves to make this happen.
We all know the big name options in Sammy Watkins and Chris Jones. Those two names have been talked about to death so in this article I’m going to take a look at some of the other names that can make some cap space.
We’ve already heard the reports that the Chiefs will not be picking up the team option for Cameron Erving. This was an easy decision for the team as they free up $3,250,000 by cutting a backup offensive lineman. It’s a position that should be easy to fill with a replacement-level player making around one million dollars.
Another possible move the Chiefs could make is also on the offensive line and his name is Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. LDT has been a fine offensive lineman for the Chiefs as a sixth-round draft choice back in 2014. He played well enough early in his career for former general manager John Dorsey to give him a five year $42.36 million contract before the 2017 season.
Unfortunately, since that signing the injury bug has continued biting LDT. In the three years since that contract was signed, he’s missed 18 games. He’s been a decent player receiving a Pro Football Focus grade of 57.2 for the 2019 season. The grade means according to their system he’s an average starting guard. Paying an average guard $9 million doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, especially when you can save $5 million by cutting him. Now that is losing two guards so replacing him will be a priority, but they could likely find his replacement in the draft.
As far as the offensive side of the ball goes that’s about the only place to generate large-cap savings by cutting players. On the defensive side, the easiest name to make a move with is Damien Wilson. If he is cut the Chiefs would save $4.5 million while only paying $875,000 in dead cap.
For the first nine games of the season, Wilson averaged playing in 81% of the stats. The final seven games of the season that number dropped to 43% of the snaps. As the defense was overhauled as a team, it’s clear that Wilson’s roll became diminished. If someone is getting less than 50% of the team’s snaps, I believe he is someone the team views as expendable. When you can save over $4 million by cutting an expendable player, it’s pretty easy math.
That is about all the substantial cap space that can be cleared by cutting players. Those three moves would clear up $12.75 million in space. That’s a good start but the team will need more cap space than that. How much more depends on the contract of Patrick Mahomes and the contract decisions of Jones and Watkins.
If at the end of those three big decisions the Chiefs still need more money, they will have to look at restructuring some veteran contracts. The two players who make the most sense to restructure and extend their current deals are Travis Kelce and Eric Fisher.
Kelce is set to make $11 million total with $8 million in salary in 2020. The Chiefs could take his $8 million in salary, turn it into a bonus and work out an extension that would free up most if not all of that $8 million this season. He is currently signed through the 2021 season, so the Chiefs I’m sure are already looking at extension numbers for him. If they could do it now, they can create a contract that is beneficial for both sides for now and the future. I don’t think many will have an issue with having the best TE in football locked in for another four seasons.
Fisher is set to make $14 million in 2020 with a salary of $8.75 million. Like Kelce he’s also currently signed through the 2021 season and has money that can be moved down the road. While he’s not the best LT in the game like Kelce is the best tight end, he is a good player. The team wouldn’t be looking to give him a raise as much as just spread his money out more evenly while still keeping a solid piece of the offense.
Fisher is an average run blocker, but he is a good to very good pass blocker. Nobody will argue that pass protecting Mahomes is the most important attribute an offensive lineman for the Chiefs can have. If the Chiefs could work with Fisher and move his salary to bonus while extending his contract out another two or three years I believe they could get him to a more reasonable yearly deal. It would also go to saving around $8 million in cap this year.
Those two moves would add another $16 million to the over $12 million in cuts giving the Chiefs $28 million in cap space without knowing the three big contracts. The Chiefs aren’t Scrooge McDuck swimming in a money bin full of cap money. But they can make some moves to free up enough space to allow Brett Veach to make any move he wants to make.