The Chiefs ran the most electric offense in football for most of the season. They carved up the New England Patriots in Week 1 with a blend of college option plays, the now legendary RPO’s, and honest to goodness deep bombs from Alex Smith. It wasn’t to last though. A midseason slump and a disastrously poor performance in the wildcard round meant that the 2017 Chiefs failed to break Kansas’ long wait for a home playoff win.
Coming into 2018 the Chiefs were strapped for cash. They were set to be well over the 201 salary cap before they traded Alex Smith, freeing up some $17 million, but even with that relief they have just $8 million in cap space and no first round pick this year. So how are they to get better? Well, cutting some veterans to create space and allow them to improve their depth across the board would be a good way to start, but which players are at risk of paying the price?
Derrick Johnson, ILB – save $8 million
The Chiefs can double their cap space by declining the team option on their veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson. He has been with the franchise since they drafted him in the first round in 2005, and even at 35 years old he is still a productive player for the Chiefs against the run. The problem is that such a trait is no longer highly valued by the league, and is thus cheap in free agency or the draft.
Johnson is currently set to be the fourth-most expensive player on their cap in 2018, which far out-weighs his importance. He played 75% of snaps in 2017, making him a tough piece to replace, but his lack of athleticism also made him a target for opposing offenses, and getting faster at the second level needs to be a priority for the Chiefs. This is a tough move, but likely a necessary one.
Orson Charles, FB/TE – save $790k
Charles played just 6% of snaps for the Chiefs offense, filling in as a tight end and full back. While his blocking wasn’t awful, he caught just two passes all season in 2017. Cutting him won’t clear a lot of space, but it will also have a very small impact on the team going into 2018 and can be done without creating any dead money at all, freeing them up to try and find a more influential reclamation project.
Spencer Ware & Charcandrick West, RB- save $3.17 million
Kareem Hunt was incredibly productive as a rookie, and looks like the perfect back for an Andy Reid offense. While he needs a backup to spell him in 2018, the Chiefs can find far cheaper, and more productive, ways of doing it than with Ware and West.
Neither were brilliant in 2016, forcing Andy Reid’s hand in the draft where he found Kareem Hunt, and their contracts this season combine to over four times the cap hit that Hunt is. Be it through the draft or finding a cheap veteran in free agency, the Chiefs will save money at the running back position and likely get better by moving on from their current backup situation.
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