Heading into the Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason, general manager Brett Veach had a problem: The future of the team’s salary cap image looked rocky.
There were many issues that Veach faced when it came to the long-term health of the Chiefs’ salary cap. Frank Clark’s contract was a financial anchor for the roster, Patrick Mahomes’ extension kicked off, several key players were free agents or were going to be free agents very soon and there was a dearth of good young talent. market on the list.
As the 2022 offseason meat draws to a close, it’s time to take a look at how Veach has changed the course of the Chiefs’ salary cap going forward.
The Chiefs currently sit in $14.7 million in salary cap space, per OverTheCap. That number is without rookies Skyy Moore and Leo Chenal in the OverTheCap system. However, both players will not subtract a substantial amount from the current cap due to their contracts replacing others already represented in that $14.7 million figure. At most, the Chiefs’ salary cap space will drop by about $700,000.
If the Chiefs kept their current active contracts during the season, meaning there would be no more major additions that would cost north of $1 million, they would end the offseason with around $10 million. salary cap dollars. This number is derived from the two contracts still missing from the final roster of 53 players and the practice squad players who will still need to be taken into account. Approximate calculations indicate that the total of these expenditures will be approximately $4.2 million.
$10 million in the operating room heading into the year is way more than the Chiefs have had in recent seasons. In the NFL, it is possible to carry over unused salary cap margin to the following season. The carryover of more than $10 million is a serious boon to the salary cap next year if the chiefs wish to stay at that number.
An extension for Orlando Brown Jr. changes the salary cap calculations, however. While the $16.6 million salary cap cut Brown achieved this year would likely be with an extension; Brown does not count towards the salary cap at all next year due to his free agent status. If his salary cap reached this year was lowered to $6 million and next year’s salary cap was $18 million, then overall that lowers the 2023 salary cap for the Chiefs despite a greater rolling margin.
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The reason an extension for Brown is more tenable now is thanks to an overall effort by Veach to reshape the future of the Chiefs’ salary cap.
The start of this strategy by Veach and the Chiefs front office is first engineered by their refusal to employ a short-term advantage: a restructuring of Patrick Mahomes’ contract. I described that small, but significant, advantage for the Chiefs keen to do earlier this offseason, and it’s starting to pay off next year with improved flexibility.
The biggest move Veach made to help the health of the long-term salary cap for the Chiefs was the biggest move of the offseason for the team: trading Tyreek Hill.
The biggest tangible benefit of Hill’s trade was Dolphins draft picks that turned into players such as Trent McDuffie and Skyy Moore. The most effective way to ensure long-term salary cap health is to have cheap young talent on the roster. With a 10-person draft class already slated for 2022 and twelve more picks lined up for the 2023 NFL Draft class, Veach is preparing the roster well to have an influx of that aforementioned cheap young talent.
Recently, the Chiefs’ roster has been top-heavy with high-end contracts. Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Joe Thuney, Travis Kelce and a few other players dominated the Chiefs’ salary cap space, leaving less of the pie for the players. Paying off both Hill and Brown would have simply continued this trend.
Trading Hill will hurt in the short term, but the long-term possibilities for the Chiefs are endless. If Brown is awarded a contract with salary caps of $6 million this year and $18 million next year, the Chiefs can carry over $20 million of salary cap space. If the salary cap is set at around $225 million next year, that means the Chiefs will have around $40 million in salary cap. That $40 million is after an expected Frank Clark return, with 39 players already under contract and without Mahomes’ contract being restructured.
Call it an “overhaul,” a “reload,” or a “re-equipment,” but the end result is still the same: The Chiefs are sitting pretty looking past their past salary cap this year. The small and large transactions of this off-season have prepared this future. While short-term results may have suffered from this forward-thinking mindset, Veach knows that maximizing Mahomes’ career should be his real focus. With that in mind, Chiefs are locked and loaded for that future.