With the official opening of NFL free agency just two days away, the Kansas City Chiefs continue to clear salary cap space at a noticeably quick pace. After cutting Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz to shed $18 million late last week and a reported restructure of Patrick Mahomes’ megadeal soon coming to free up another $17 million, the Chiefs are currently projected to have $13 million in spending power, according to Spotrac.
However, it appears that number could soon grow to $20 million or more.
In his latest MMQB column, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer revealed that the Chiefs are expected to perform similar basic restructures with the contracts of All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce and Pro Bowl DT Chris Jones.
“Last week, at this point, they projected to be over $20 million in the red on the cap,” Breer wrote. “After these moves, plus simple restructures I’m told are coming on Patrick Mahomes’s, Chris Jones’s and Travis Kelce’s contracts, they’ll have more than $20 million to spend.”
NFL Network’s James Palmer has since confirmed Breer’s initial report as well.
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In an interesting turn of events on Monday morning, Kelce told the Pat McAfee Show that the team has not formally reached out to him about any contract changes. However, he did share that, “If it came to it, I would guaranteed. I would without a doubt restructure.”
Restructures Could See Chiefs Shed $50 Million in 5 Days
With Mahomes, Kansas City converted the 25-year-old’s entire $21.7 million roster bonus into a pure signing bonus, something they’ll likely continue doing in the seasons to come due to the team-friendly structure of the deal.
Further details on the Chiefs’ plans with Kelce and Jones’ contracts have yet to be revealed, however, the former currently carries a $7.75 million roster bonus and the latter a $20 million roster bonus for 2021. Kansas City is not required to convert those totals entirely, but as Chiefs Wire notes, the possibility remains for the AFC champions to free up a maximum savings of $19.5 million on these two moves alone. That could bring the team’s available cap space to nearly $33 million — $6-10 million of which will be dedicated to the club’s incoming draft class this spring.
What’s more? Despite a potential $50-plus million swing in the span of four days, the Chiefs may not be done either.
Tyrann Mathieu a Likely Restructure or Extension Candidate
Among a couple remaining common sense moves the Chiefs could make to up their spending power prior in the coming days is a contract restructure, or more likely an extension, of All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu. The soon-to-be 29-year-old is entering the final year of his current deal and owns the team’s third-highest 2021 cap hit at $19.7 million, trailing only Jones ($21.9M) and Frank Clark ($25.8M), another potential albeit less likely restructure candidate.
Given his presence and value on and off the field, the organization has already made it clear they’d like to retain its defensive leader — and arguably best free agent signing of in franchise history — coming off of a career-high six interceptions last season.
“We’d put Tyrann in that category,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach told reporters on March 1, via ESPN. “We’ll have some work to do to get with him and his agents, but enough can’t be said about Tyrann and his importance to this team both on the field and in the locker room. He’s proven not just to be a great player but a great leader and great person to have developing the young guys and out in the community.”
Mathieu is still in his prime years and remains in prime position to cash in with his next deal. His current average annual salary of $14 million places him tied for fourth-most among all safties and just $750K short of the Arizona Cardinals’ Budda Baker. All things considered, it’s feasible the ninth-year veteran is rewarded with a new high mark of $15 million annually, which depending on the length and bonus structure, could still drop his cap hit by a sizable margin.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!