That doesn’t diminish the emotional impact that came Monday as the Chiefs made the news official. The Chiefs are sending away Hali, their first-round draft pick in 2006 and the No. 2 on their list of all-time sack leaders behind only Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.
There was no room for Hali in Kansas City anymore, not at what would have been a 2018 salary-cap cost of about $9.4 million, not after sore knees limited him to five regular-season games in 2017, not after he failed to register a sack for the first time in his career.
But while the move was not a surprise, releasing one of the franchise’s all-time greats is yet another blunt indication the Chiefs aren’t messing around. Their defense was terrible last season -- it ruined what could have been a good thing for the Chiefs -- and something had to be done.
As the start of the free-agent signing period nears, the Chiefs have so far sacrificed not only Hali but also linebacker Derrick Johnson, safety Ron Parker and cornerback Marcus Peters. Hali fits into a category with Johnson: He is an aging player who wasn’t as effective as he once was.
The Chiefs decided Parker was no longer worth his salary-cap cost, which would have been about $7 million. Peters was traded to the Rams for a variety of reasons, more having to do with his behavior both on and off the field and his future cost as opposed to his ability or current cost.
More moves could be coming on defense. Defensive lineman Bennie Logan is a potential unrestricted free agent and could be on his way out, too.
Even if this is where things stop, the Chiefs still have the opportunity to fix their defense. Monday’s moves, including the releases of Hali and Parker, will save the Chiefs almost $13 million against their cap and give them some room to work the free-agent market.
Defensive improvement could rest on what the Chiefs get done in free agency. The Chiefs don’t have a first-round draft pick, having traded it last year to the Buffalo Bills so they could move up and select quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. Their first pick isn’t until the second round, which minimizes their chances of getting a player of immediate impact regardless of position.
The Chiefs will have more than $20 million of available cap room when free agency begins, and while that isn’t as much as many other teams, it will still allow them to make repairs to a defense that needs fixes on all levels.
If the Chiefs needed to part with Hali, Johnson and others to get that accomplished, so be it. But it’s a disappointment if those moves by the Chiefs turn out to be in vain.