Chiefs won’t need to make cuts


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Jan 22, 2006
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With or without NFL deal, team will get under salary cap
Chiefs won’t need to make cuts

The Kansas City Star

After weeks of nervous cap watching, and fears of a bloody Sunday, the Chiefs’ bloated number was poised to disappear with nary a whimper.

Pro Bowl guard Will Shields was still on the roster. So was Priest Holmes. By late in the afternoon, Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson said there would be no cuts Sunday. That came hours before the NFL new year was scheduled to begin and teams had scurried to get under a salary cap that had been a moving target.

Then the target moved again. Labor negotiations in New York restarted, then stalled again, then late in the evening, the start of free-agency was postponed — again — for another 72 hours. It meant the Chiefs can wait to get below the $94.5 million cap that could rise by $10 million if a deal is worked out.

But the Chiefs are ready to get below the cap with the help of four to six players who agreed to restructure their contracts.

“I appreciate those who have been receptive to it,” Peterson said, “and obviously there have been some who have not been receptive. And then I’ve had to make a decision to say goodbye to them.”

Documents provided to The Star showed the Chiefs were more than $20 million over the cap last month. About $6 million was cleared Thursday with the cuts of veteran defensive players Eric Warfield, Dexter McCleon, Gary Stills and Shawn Barber. But without a labor extension, the Chiefs were still way over the cap.

It is believed that Holmes, a three-time Pro Bowl running back, was one of the players who restructured a deal that would have cost the Chiefs $5.33 million under his previous contract. Peterson would only say, “First of all, I really appreciate players that think about the team first and themselves second. Priest Holmes has always been that way.”

Holmes’ future has been iffy after a helmet-to-helmet collision in San Diego at midseason. He was put on injured reserve and said he wanted to return pending some tests to determine if he was neurologically sound. If Holmes does come back, he’ll find himself in the unusual position as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher playing backup to Larry Johnson.

But Peterson bristled when asked about the speculation that Holmes’ career may be over.

“Priest is still under contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, all right?” he said. “Specific to his future, it’s still an ongoing evaluation by our medical people. He’s made a lot of progress. We don’t have to make a decision today, and neither does he because we don’t start the season until August.

“I would not count this man out. You or anybody else can speculate, but I will not count him out. I know him. He could’ve said, ‘I retire, I’m finished,’ but he’s not doing that.”

Shields’ return has also been clouded with uncertainty, and late last week he seemed pessimistic about playing in 2006 in Kansas City. Peterson reiterated that Shields would not be a cap casualty Sunday and that he hasn’t been asked to restructure his contract, which would pay him a $5.1 million salary.

Peterson has said the Chiefs are still waiting for Shields, who’s battled arthritis, to tell them he’s definitively coming back. Shields’ agent, Joe Linta, said again Sunday that Shields has made it clear he wants to play.

“The bottom line is that the decisions are all theirs right now,” Linta said. “There’s no fork in the road for Will to take. They haven’t asked him to restructure or cut him. There’s no decision for Will to make.”

But as the waiver deadline initially approached Sunday night, there were plenty of questions for the league. Will there be an uncapped season in 2007? How will the lack of an extension affect the start of free-agency?

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue made a brief appearance on a teleconference Sunday to announce Kansas City’s bid for the 2015 Super Bowl. He was locked in New York with negotiations that were on again, off again all weekend.

“I can assure you I’d much rather be there than where I am today,” Tagliabue said.

Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt thanked him and told him to “get back to work.”

This week, the work gets more complicated. There may be a scarce amount of teams with big cap space to use on free agents. Peterson said he didn’t anticipate the Chiefs being active this spring.

“Last year we went out and spent a lot of money on four or five defensive players,” he said. “The year before we didn’t. Every year is a different year, and it’s almost impossible unless you have an unlimited amount of cash and cap dollars to go out every year and spend a lot of money on unrestricted free agents.

“So probably even if there is an extension, we’re not going to go out and spend a lot of money on our free agents in 2006.”


What’s new with NFL talks

■ The NFL delayed the start of free-agency, due to begin Sunday, to 11:01 p.m. Wednesday.

■ Earlier Sunday, labor negotiations in New York had broken off.

■ The salary cap stays at $94.5 million for now.
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