Low on cash, de­fend­ing cham­pion Chiefs quiet at start of free agency

The Kansas City Star - - Sports - BY HER­BIE TEOPE hteope@kc­star.com

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.

IN-HOUSE BUSI­NESS

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).

PLAY­ERS LOST

G Ste­fen Wis­niewski

(Steel­ers)

CB Ken­dall Fuller

(Wash­ing­ton)

DE Em­manuel Og­bah ●

(Dol­phins)

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

ARMS RACE

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:

DEN­VER BRON­COS

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.

Star file photo

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.

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