KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Depending on who’s doing the math, the Kansas City Chiefs' available 2017 salary-cap room amounts to as little as $2.25 million (according to ESPN Stats & Information) or as much as $3.5 million (overthecap.com).
Either way, that won’t be enough for the Chiefs to accomplish the things they want to get done over the next few months. Those moves could include signing one or both of their major potential unrestricted free agents (nose tackle Dontari Poe and safety Eric Berry), making qualifying offers to potential restricted free agents (kicker Cairo Santos, safety Daniel Sorensen and wide receiver Albert Wilson) and signing as many as 10 or 11 draft choices (number to be determined when the NFL awards comp picks).
The Chiefs can clear additional cap room in a number of ways, including the restructuring of some veteran contracts. They also can do it be releasing certain veterans from their contracts. Here are some players who could get cut and what the Chiefs would save against their salary cap by making those cuts. All figures are from ESPN Stats & Information.
QB Nick Foles. 2017 cap charge: $10.75 million. Savings if he’s released: $10.75 million. The Chiefs signed Foles last summer to a two-year contract to be their backup. The $10.75 million is a lot of money to pay a backup, so the only realistic way he plays with the Chiefs on his current deal is if he’s named the starter this spring. That’s unlikely, so either Foles goes or he agrees to remain with the Chiefs on a reduced contract. He may decide, as he did when he signed last year, that Kansas City is the best place for him to be, even as a backup with a reduced contract. He also may decide he’s better off trying to continue his career elsewhere.
RB Jamaal Charles. 2017 cap charge: $6.94 million. Savings if he’s released: $6.94 million. Charles would be a bargain at this price if the Chiefs knew he would still be the player he was earlier in his career. But Charles is 30, the age when running backs tend to start to lose their skills. He hasn’t played a significant amount since October 2015. He’s still trying to re-establish his career after the second torn ACL during his time in Kansas City. That makes almost $7 million a large bet on Charles. But he was good enough earlier in his career that betting on him is worth it if the Chiefs can get Charles to agree to a reduced deal that includes plenty of incentives.
OL Jah Reid. 2017 cap charge: $3.63 million. Savings if he’s released: $2.08 million. Releasing Reid wouldn’t generate a tremendous savings, considering he's an experienced lineman who can play right tackle and either guard spot, even as a backup. On the other hand, Reid played just 94 snaps in 2016. The Chiefs can find another lineman to provide what Reid does for far less than he would cost against the cap in 2017.
LB Derrick Johnson. 2017 cap charge: $7.75 million. Savings if he’s released: $2.25 million. Johnson turns 35 in November and is heading into the final year of his contract. He tore his Achilles tendon late in the season but has indicated he will be ready to play when training camp begins. Cutting him would be a desperation move for the Chiefs, because even at his current price, a healthy Johnson is a vital part of Kansas City’s defense. He’s equally effective against the run and the pass.
LB Tamba Hali. 2017 cap charge: $8.6 million. Savings if he’s released: $0. It would actually cost the Chiefs more against their cap to release him (about $8.9 million) than to retain him. So if the Chiefs release Hali, it wouldn’t be for financial reasons.