Low on cash, defending champion Chiefs quiet at start of free agency
A full week of NFL free agency is in the books.
While the league has seen some multimillion-dollar signings in the seven days since the start of the new league year, the Chiefs haven’t exactly engaged in a spending spree.
Sure, they re-signed backup quarterback Chad Henne to a two-year, $3.25 million deal, and brought in cornerback Antonio Hamilton, offensive lineman Mike Remmers and former XFL signal-caller Jordan Ta’amu on one-year deals.
But none of these additions is particularly attention-grabbing. There’s no assurance any of the players the Chiefs have signed thus far will even be immediate starters.
Instead, Henne returns as the primary backup to Patrick Mahomes;
Hamilton provides depth and the ability to contribute on special teams; Remmers makes up for the loss of Stefen Wisniewski, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers; and Ta’amu becomes their fourth quarterback on the roster behind Kyle Shurmur.
So why hasn’t there been more action from the decisionmakers at One Arrowhead Drive? Follow the money, which the Chiefs currently don’t have a lot of.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the NFLPA on Monday sent an internal memo reflecting total cap space for each team. It said the Chiefs possess an NFL-low $555,000. To put that number in perspective, Spotrac.com lists the league average of available cap space at $20.4 million.
The Chiefs’ limited cap space
hasn’t stopped them from conducting business behind the scenes, however. They still have an eye on making a big signing in the open market or bringing back one of their own.
As previously reported by The Star, the Chiefs showed interest in twotime Pro Bowl guard Andrus Peat, who eventually returned to the New Orleans Saints on a lucrative five-year deal reportedly worth more than $57 million. The Chiefs also wanted to bring back Wisniewski before he chose to sign with Pittsburgh, his hometown town, on a two-year deal.
But the Chiefs’ lack of cap space will remain an issue. Their offseason roster currently includes 63 players, so they have a long way to go to reach the maximum 90 allowed.
The Chiefs currently hold five draft picks, of course, but would need a projected $4.7 million to eventually sign them, according to Spotrac. They’ll also have undrafted free agents to sign and late-summer additions to make when current players inevitably suffer injuries during training camp.
Ultimately, the Chiefs must continue to seek creative ways to secure cap relief, such as what they did in converting $5 million of defensive end Frank Clark’s base 2020 salary into a signing bonus. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ contract, for instance, which counts $21 million against the cap, remains a prime restructuring candidate.
Until then, they just won’t have much money to work with.
For now, here’s a recap of the previous week.
Before the start of the NFL’s new calendar year, the Chiefs designated defensive tackle Chris Jones as a non-exclusive franchise player and exercised club options on running back Damien Williams and linebacker Damien Wilson.
They also tendered qualifying offers to exclusiverights free agents Andrew Wylie (O-line) and Deon Yelder (tight end).
G Stefen Wisniewski
CB Kendall Fuller
DE Emmanuel Ogbah ●
S Jordan Lucas (Bears) ●
CURRENT UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
QBs Matt Moore
RB LeSean McCoy
RB Spencer Ware
FB Anthony Sherman ●
WR Demarcus Robinson
WR Marcus Kemp (not ● tendered as an ERFA)
TE Blake Bell
TE David Wells (not
● tendered as an ERFA)
T Cam Erving
CB Bashaud Breeland ●
CB Morris Claiborne ●
CB Keith Reaser (not ● tendered as an ERFA)
LB Reggie Ragland
LB Darron Lee
DL Xavier Williams
DL Michael Pennel
DL Terrell Suggs
While the Chiefs have been fairly reserved thus far, the rest of the AFC West has seen a flurry of activity as rivals seek to gain ground on the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Here’s a look at notable transactions within the division:
The Broncos used their franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons and made a splash with trades for cornerback A.J. Bouye, a former Pro Bowler, from the Jaguars and five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey from the Titans.
Denver also signed former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon to pair with Phillip Lindsay in what amounts to a formidable backfield on paper.
Other notable additions: G Graham Glasgow, TE Nick Vannett.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris, the KU product who spent nine season in Denver, remained in the division by signing with the Chargers. He joins a loaded secondary featuring cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Desmond King and safety Derwin James.
While Harris commanded the headlines, the Chargers also bolstered their offensive line with the additions of tackle Bryan Bulaga and guard Trai Turner, whom they acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers.
Bulaga and Turner won’t be blocking for Philip Rivers, though. The longtime Chargers quarterback signed a with the Indianapolis Colts.
Tight end Hunter Henry received L.A.’s franchise tag.
Other notable addition: DT Linvall Joseph.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
The Raiders’ moves during free agency so far seem to be good matches for splashy Las Vegas.
On offense, they signed quarterback Marcus Mariota, the second overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, to serve as a backup to Derek Carr. They also added wide receiver Nelson Agholor, veteran tight end Jason Witten and former Chiefs guard Eric Kush, who spent three season in Kansas City (2013-15).
Defensively, the Raiders added Corey Littleton, an excellent coverage linebacker, cornerback Eli Apple and safety Jeff Heath.
Other notable additions: DT Maliek Collins, LB Nick Kwiatkoski.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, left, and coach Andy Reid continue to build toward what could be a second straight Super Bowl appearance with an offense led by Patrick Mahomes.