Kansas City Chiefs: Clearing Cap Space

January 19th, 2013

New regime could clear significant salary cap space through roster moves. Cutting Tyson Jackson creates the most space. (Photo: Yahoo Sports)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

Criticize what you will about former general manager Scott Pioli’s tenure – his failed investment in Matt Cassel, his inability to find a head coach given two opportunities to do so – but his ability to avoid committing guaranteed money to personnel means that Andy Reid and co. will take over a team with a surprising amount of salary cap flexibility.

With players such as wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, left tackle Branden Albert, and defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey set to become free agents, one of Reid’s first orders of business should be clearing up additional salary cap room to invest towards long-term solutions on both sides of the ball. More specifically, releasing just the five players listed after the jump could net Kansas City an abundance of flexibility. Read on for more information.

Quarterback Matt Cassel is a safe bet to be among Kansas City’s initial releases; incoming head coach Andy Reid lacks the vested interest former general manager Scott Pioli had in Cassel succeeding,  and the passer’s statistics do not justify a salary anywhere near the $7.5 million base Cassel is owed in 2013. Releasing Cassel would allow Kansas City to recoup his entire base salary, along with a $250,000 workout bonus included in his contract, making him almost certain to be given his walking papers in February. The move would also prevent Kansas City from paying Cassel’s $9 million salary in 2014. Cassel enjoyed one impressive season with the Chiefs: in 2010, he threw for 3,116 yards and 27 touchdowns while being intercepted just seven times.

However, once offensive coordinator Charlie Weis departed for same role at the University of Florida, Cassel’s production stagnated, culminating in an abysmal 2012 campaign in which he appeared in just nine games, throwing six touchdowns to twelve interceptions. He will likely have to settle for a backup role on another team.

Perhaps the most notable expected release is defensive end Tyson Jackson, the former third-overall pick whose career has been largely defined by effective run defense and a lack of pressure in the passing game. Jackson struggled more in 2012 than in years past, finishing with 43 tackles and three sacks as part of a Kansas City rush defense that finished 27th in the league in opposing rushing yards allowed (135.7 per game.)

It’s possible that Reid will want to scrap Romeo Crennel’s two-gap 3-4 defense, which would make Jackson even more expendable; the defensive end lacks a true position in four-man fronts. $3.22 million of Jackson’s base salary is guaranteed for next season, but the remaining $11.5 million of Jackson’s $14.72 million base could be saved, along with his $250,000 workout bonus for a total of $11.75 million. That money could be better reinvested in the defensive rebuilding project.

Additional defensive savings could come via releasing outside linebacker Andy Studebaker, another player better suited to a 3-4 defense. In comparison to the massive savings gained by releasing Tyson Jackson, Studebaker’s $1.48 million base salary and $500,000 workout bonus seem modest, but considering Studebaker is trapped behind starting outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, the move appears almost guaranteed.

Studebaker recorded just eight tackles this season over a mere 59 defensive snaps; the 27 year-old will have to compete for a roster spot elsewhere in 2013. Studebaker’s deal also contained $1 million in incentives; based on his lack of playing time in 2012, it appears unlikely that Studebaker would have reached the triggers for these incentives, but it’s difficult to say without any more information on how he could have earned the extra money.

Two other players appear prime candidates for release: wide receiver Steve Breaston and tight end Kevin Boss. If nothing else, general manager Scott Pioli’s tenure left Kansas City in an attractive cap situation; however, his decision to sign Breaston to a five-year, $22.55 million contract back in 2011 was a misstep.

Breaston’s $3.8 million base salary, $200,000 workout bonus, and $500,000 in potential incentives are far too rich for a receiver who appeared on the field for just 263 snaps this season, catching seven passes without a touchdown. He also has a $1.3 million signing bonus which he may receive either way, although the Chiefs should cut their losses in any case. Boss is a candidate to retire after suffering yet another concussion; leaving him off of the 2013 roster would save Kansas City from paying his $2.4 million base salary, as well as a $1 million workout bonus. The Chiefs have a pair of young tight ends on roster – Tony Moeaki (935 snaps) and Steve Maneri (412) – and could save money by complimenting them with a young receiving option instead of Boss.

Tags: Kevin Boss, Salary Cap, Steve Breaston

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