Brett Veach will have to work his salary cap magic again this offseason, it appears, due to the lack of fans in the stands and the COVID shortened season.
The salary cap is due to decrease for the first time since the lockout-ridden 2011 season. Those are the only times that the cap has ever actually decreased since its inception in 1994. Rough estimates are thinking the cap will be somewhere around 175-180 million, which certainly is nothing to shake a stick at, still less than the 198.2 million it was at before the pandemic threw a curveball at all of us.
This 20-plus million decrease in the cap has certainly thrown a monkey wrench in front offices around the league, not just the Chiefs. In order to become cap compliant, the Chiefs need to restructure a few contracts, especially after they threw everything they had last year into resigning and keeping the core of the back-to-back Super Bowl appearing squad signed in KC. This puts the Chiefs somewhere around $21.6 million over the cap according to overthecap.com. So whose salary do the Chiefs need to restructure? Here are three options.
The first and biggest option for restructuring is Patrick Mahomes. Patrick has a roster bonus of at least $15 million. This money can be spread around over the course of a max of 5 years as a signing bonus, guaranteeing he gets the money but seriously dampening his penalty towards the 2021 salary cap.
This move would save the Chiefs $12 million on this year’s cap, and Mahomes is still guaranteed the money, making the deal make sense for not only the Chiefs but Patrick as well. This frees up the Chiefs to sign more talent around Mahomes, and Patrick has shown in the past to be an unselfish, team-first type of guy, so I doubt he would be opposed to working with the Chiefs to free up some money.
This move itself would put the Chiefs under the cap by $1.344 million, but there is still a lot of work to do following this move to give the squad breathing room to make a splash in free agency this offseason.
This brings us to another move, restructuring the contract of tight end Travis Kelce. When you examine Kelce’s contract with a microscope, the irregularities jump out at you. Kelce is due to make $13.25 million this year, but in 2022 he is only due $7.5 million. Also following this season, none of his contract money is guaranteed, which is odd for a player of his caliber.
This could be worked into a deal; Kelce receives a 2021 pay cut but also is rewarded with the security of guaranteed money. This would make sense for both sides; Kelce takes a minor pay cut in return for the security of guaranteed money, leaving him with less pressure to “bet on himself.” Say Kelce takes a pay cut from $13.25 million to $10 million, this frees up even more money for incoming free agents who are looking to play with Patrick Mahomes as opposed to against him.
The last restructure on the Chiefs’ horizon is defensive tackle Chris Jones. His D-linemate Frank Clark restructure his contract after last season, and Jones has the most money that can be moved around and finagled to reduce his cap hit drastically.
This is the scariest of all the restructures but it is also hard to imagine a Chiefs future that doesn’t involve Chris Jones plugging up and holding down the middle of the defense from the trenches. With the most money on the defensive line going to Jones, it also gives the Chiefs the most room to work within restructuring a deal with the Chiefs star. A restructure of Jone’s contract would free up around $6 million, according to si.com.
With so little money to go around to meet the demands of a reduced salary cap, each and every dollar is crucial. These three contracts seem to give the Chiefs the most bang for their buck, and make sense for the players as well as the Chiefs organization.
Brett Veach has shown he knows how to game the system to benefit the Chiefs; he somehow found enough cap space last year to sign Patrick Mahomes to a half-a-billion-dollar deal and lock up Chris Jones for the foreseeable future.
And players have shown a willingness to work with the Chiefs in the past for the good of the team, lets just hope that show of goodwill hasn’t faded in the 2021 offseason. The Chiefs need to get on it if they want to make a 3rdstraight Super Bowl in the upcoming season. But, as we at Arrowhead Live like to say, “in Veach we trust.”