ith the offseason officially underway for the Kansas City Chiefs, attention is turning towards which positions need to be addressed, that way the team can continue its streak of being one of the top teams in the NFL.
At the surface, it appears that a schematic change is the major point of emphasis on offense, not personnel. That’s why the defense will be a primary focus for Kansas City’s front office during the offseason, which general manager Brett Veach detailed.
“Knowing that we have a good offensive line in place, defensive line probably makes the most sense, and through the defensive backfield and what have you,” Veach said during his press conference on February 1. “I think the defensive side is one that we’ll probably focus on right off the bat.”
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Chiefs’ Secondary Filled With Pending Free Agents
Among the 22 players on Kansas City’s roster that are going to be free agents at the start of the new league year are five players in the secondary: Tyrann Mathieu, Daniel Sorenson, Charvarius Ward, Mike Hughes, and Armani Watts.
Mathieu and Ward were starters for the Chiefs this season, and Sorensen and Hughes were prominent rotational pieces in the defensive backfield. Losing any or all of them would leave big gaps on defense for Kansas City, which is why Veach acknowledged that the secondary will be something they have to address during the offseason. The options to do that include it re-signing the aforementioned players, finding replacements for them in free agency, or a combination of the two — which is the most likely scenario.
However, Kansas City won’t be able to do anything until the front office puts the team in a better financial situation for 2022.
Mahomes’ Contract Has KC Cap Strapped…for Now
2022 is the third year of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ 10-year, $450 million contract extension with Kansas City. This is noteworthy because it’s the first year Mahomes’ cap hit will be significant since signing that extension, as he will be on the books for a $35.7 million cap hit. To put that into perspective — he had a combined cap hit of $12.7 million over the first two years of his extension, per Over The Cap.
Mahomes’ contract will leave the Chiefs with just $6 million to spend during the offseason, according to Jason Fitzgerald of OTC. However, there are ways to adjust Mahomes’ contract along with other Kansas City players’ contracts in order to free up money.
What Can Chiefs Do To Free Up Cap Space?
One of the easiest ways for the Chiefs to free up cap space in 2022 is adjusting Mahomes’ contract. A way to do that was figured out by former sports agent and salary cap expert, Joel Corry.
“The KC Chiefs would create $21.92M of 2022 salary cap room by converting Patrick Mahomes’ $27.4M 3rd day of the 2022 league year roster bonus (3/18) into signing bonus. Mahomes’ 2022 cap number would go from $35,793,381 to $13,873,381,” Corry wrote on Twitter.
Other ways the Chiefs can free up cap space involve other players.
Defensive end Frank Clark has a contract that could be dumped. He will have a $26.3 million cap hit in 2022. However, if Kansas City were to cut him pre-June 1, then they would save $12.7 million in cap room while also having to eat $13.6 million in dead money, per OTC.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill is a player whose contract the Chiefs could manipulate. He will be on the books with a $20.8 million cap hit in 2022, which will also be the final year of his contract, per OTC. Signing the 27-year-old wideout to another extension could lower his cap hit for 2022, freeing up more money.
Another maneuver — but one that will create the least amount of cap room — involves veteran linebacker, Anthony Hitchens. He has a $12.6 cap hit in 2022, which is also the final year of his contract. Cutting him pre-June 1 would free up $8.4 million in cap room, but Kansas City would also have to deal with $4.2 million in dead money, per OTC.
There’s a lot that needs to be figured out for the Chiefs before free agency begins in March. However, if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that a lot of maneuvers need to be made in Kansas City in order for them to compete for another championship next season.