The Chiefs have 2013 salary cap commitments of more than $129 million, a total that exceeds the NFL’s expected limit of $123 million, according to figures provided to the Kansas City Star.
But the Chiefs will be about $7.5 million under the salary cap when the league year begins on March 12 because they have $14 million of unused cap space from the 2012 season to carry over into 2013. That effectively makes the Chiefs’ 2013 salary cap about $137 million.
The $129 million figure includes the salary of quarterback Alex Smith, who will be acquired in a trade from the San Francisco 49ers once the league trading period begins on March 12. For the time being, Smith’s salary cap number of $9.75 million is being carried by the 49ers and not the Chiefs, though The Star has included Smith in the Chiefs’ calculation.
Starting March 12, each team’s top 51 salaries plus so-called “dead money” will count against the cap. The Chiefs’ top 51 salaries, including Smith, total $121,474,975 and they have paid $8,084,145 in dead money, which includes salary cap figures for players who were either released last year or voided the 2013 season from their contract. That equals $129,559,120, which is $6,559,120 over the cap.
But the Chiefs will carry over $14,079,650 in unused cap money from 2012, leaving them $7,520,530 of cap space.
Not including the contract of Smith, the Chiefs have more than $17 million of salary cap room.
The Chiefs can clear even more space under the salary cap by releasing defensive end Tyson Jackson. Last season, Jackson agreed to take a pay cut in exchange for a higher salary in 2013. His salary cap number is almost $17.5 million and he is due a base salary of about $14.7 million.
Jackson would cost the Chiefs about $2.5 million if he is released. But that move would still save them about $15 million against their salary cap.
The Chiefs would also save almost $6 million against their cap when they trade or release quarterback Matt Cassel.
The Chiefs are going to need more salary cap space. They are trying to re-sign, among their other potential free agents, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, punter Dustin Colquitt and tackle Branden Albert.
If they can’t re-sign Bowe, he is likely to be named as the Chiefs’ franchise player. While that would effectively keep him off the free-agent market, the Chiefs at the same time would be required to offer Bowe a one-year contract worth $11.4 million.
That figure is an automatic 20 percent raise from his 2012 salary because he would be a franchise player for the second straight season.
If the Chiefs can sign Bowe to a long-term contract, they may use the franchise designation on Albert, who then would be offered a one-year deal worth about $9.83 million.
An exclusive-rights franchise tag would give the Chiefs sole negotiating rights with the player. A non-exclusive tag would allow other teams to negotiate with the player, but the Chiefs would receive two first-round picks if another team signed him.
If the Chiefs are going to designate a franchise player, they must do so by Monday.
Last year at this time, chairman and CEO Clark Hunt and then-general manager Scott Pioli were taking heat for being well under the cap. According to NFL.com, the Chiefs entered last season with the most available cap space in the league.
Part of Pioli’s undoing in Kansas City stemmed from his perceived inability to assemble a team with adequate skilled depth when money seemingly remained at his disposal. He deflected criticism of the Chiefs’ spending relative to the cap by pointing out that the organization ranked near the middle of the league in “cash spending.”
It remains to be seen what the Chiefs’ philosophy will be on free-agent spending in 2013. New general manager John Dorsey did not comment on the specifics of the Chiefs’ salary cap but issued a statement that said the team would be prepared for the new year.
“Clark Hunt is committed to winning,” Dorsey said, “and has provided us the resources necessary to succeed.”