The Chiefs Get Some Breathing Room
The NFL salary cap has been set at $133 million, a hefty increase from most projections. With a definitive cap figure now set in place, the Kansas City Chiefs will have just over $7 million to play with entering free agency. The jump in actual vs. predicted cap number gives the Chiefs a lot more breathing room than they previously had.
Kansas City needs an upgrade at safety and a replacement at defensive end if it doesn’t re-sign Tyson Jackson. Neither one of these holes was in jeopardy of being filled with a cap figure closer to the projections. Kansas City could have addressed both of these positions in the draft if the available options in free agency were too expensive or just not great fits.
The jump in cap space will really help Kansas City’s depth. The Chiefs were bounced from the playoffs partly because their lack of depth was exposed as numerous starters were forced to leave the loss to the Indianapolis Colts due to injury. The secondary was also victimized by Andrew Luck repeatedly targeting first Dunta Robinson and then Marcus Cooper. The Chiefs didn't have anyone else who was capable of handling the third cornerback duties against a quarterback smart enough to constantly attack them. With a few million more dollars, Kansas City may be able to add veteran depth.
Last offseason, the Seattle Seahawks were able to sign Michael Bennett to a one-year deal. Even though Bennett had a productive 2012 season in Tampa Bay, the market for pass rushers wasn’t demanding large contracts. Seattle added another key piece to an already stacked defense and it (obviously) paid off. Seattle won the Super Bowl, and Bennett should be rewarded with that multi-year deal he was looking for a year ago.
The reason I bring Bennett up is with only a few million dollars of cap room, the Chiefs were expected to have based on projections, they wouldn’t have had the room to sign a player such as Bennett in a similar position. They wouldn't have been able to underpay someone who was still on the market after the big dollars dried up. Kansas City can be in that situation this year.
The Chiefs can address their major concerns through the draft and at the beginning of free agency and could perhaps have enough money to add some depth at the end of free agency.
However, every other team will also have the same increase in cap room. It is not unreasonable to expect some contracts will be more bloated than they would have been otherwise. With that being the case, there still is a possibility for a Bennett-esque situation. If teams outbid themselves silly on Eric Decker, Emmanuel Sanders and James Jones, and someone such as Julian Edelman or Jacoby Jones slips through the cracks and could be picked up at a value.
Even with the increased cap room, the Branden Albert situation will probably not change. The Chiefs' apparent disinterest in the Pro Bowl left tackle doesn't stem from his play, but a reluctance to hand out a big payday. Albert would force top overall 2013 pick Eric Fisher to stay on the right side, which isn't the most efficient way of using that pick, even if the Central Michigan alum’s play isn't deserving of the tougher tackle position as of yet. Albert in a Chiefs uniform next season would be a surprise.
Kansas City will still not be a major player in the free agency market. Largest cap number in history or not, the Chiefs still have a lot of high-priced players under contract. The cap should increase again next offseason, but regardless, the Chiefs will still need to be conscientious of the room available in a year. Alex Smith and Justin Houston are due new contracts, and in the case of Houston, he will be on the receiving end of a large raise. The Chiefs will now have a bit more financial freedom in their attempt to keep themselves playoff-bound.