Cap not good fit for Chiefs


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Jan 22, 2006
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Cap not good fit for Chiefs
The Kansas City Star

If the Chiefs want to sign Terrell Owens or another high-priced free agent when the signing period begins next month, it won’t be as simple as writing a fat check.

They will also have to clear some space under the NFL’s salary cap, a task that figures to be anything but easy. Salary documents provided to The Kansas City Star show the Chiefs with cap obligations for next season of more than $116 million.

The salary limit hasn’t been set, but the Chiefs expect it to be between $92 million and $95 million when the league year begins March 3.

The last time the Chiefs faced a similar overage was in 2001, when they had to sacrifice veterans such as Elvis Grbac, James Hasty and Chester McGlockton to squeeze under the limit.

The Chiefs were able that year to re-sign Will Shields, trade for quarterback Trent Green and sign at modest prices free agents Priest Holmes and Casey Wiegmann. Still, they finished 6-10, their worst record in 17 seasons under president/general manager Carl Peterson.

Asked whether the necessary moves to comply with the cap would be similar this year, Peterson said: “Not to the same degree. We’re going to be fine. We’re a little heavy right now. We’ve been through this the last couple of months on what moves we’d have to make regarding the cap.”

Yet with as much as $24 million to trim, the Chiefs won’t be able to avoid some pain.

“The cap situation … can always be better,” coach Herm Edwards said. “Obviously, every team always wants more room under the cap. Obviously, (the Chiefs) have to do some things, and that’s up to the powers that be.”

A player’s cap number is determined by his base salary along with various bonuses. Those with the highest cap numbers are generally those who were given large signing bonuses or have sizable roster bonuses.

One way for the Chiefs to create cap space is to release players from their contracts, as the Chiefs did with Grbac, Hasty and McGlockton five years ago. The problem this year is that many of the most obvious candidates are too expensive to cut.

Jerome Woods lost his starting safety job last season and, with a base salary of $1.6 million in 2006, would appear to be a prime candidate. But because he is only two seasons into what was originally a six-year contract, Woods’ cost against the cap is actually more if they released him (about $3.5 million, the unaccounted-for portion of his signing bonus, which all would count against this year’s cap) than if they keep him (about $2.9 million).

The same holds for Holmes, who lost his starting job to Larry Johnson. Holmes’ release would cost the Chiefs more than $6 million against the cap. His cost if he plays for them: about $5.3 million.

Documents show the Chiefs would save about $4 million in cap space by releasing linebacker Kendrell Bell. Others who could be in danger include cornerbacks Eric Warfield (savings of about $2.7 million) and Dexter McCleon (about $1.2 million).

“There will be veteran guys and you’ll want to keep them, but you can’t keep them at the money they’re making,” Edwards said without being specific.

The Chiefs also will approach several players about restructuring their contracts to create cap space. Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez is likely atop the list. He not only has one of the highest cap numbers on the team (about $6.5 million) but also is heading into the final year of his contract.

By merely reaching the salary limit, the Chiefs leave themselves no room to sign free agents, including their own.

The Chiefs have no irreplaceable players who don’t have a 2006 contract, but several have been key contributors, including fullback Tony Richardson, defensive lineman Lional Dalton, nickel back Benny Sapp and kicker Lawrence Tynes.
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