The Patriots are fairly tight against the cap. The Chiefs are squeezed against it.
Field Yates of ESPN.com has posted the current cap numbers, and New England’s $891,775 doesn’t look like much, until it’s compared to Kansas City’s.
The Chiefs have (the headline gave it away) $177.00 in cap space.
For starters, the situation makes a new contract with quarterback Patrick Mahomes impossible, until cap space is created.
The biggest current cap numbers belong to receiver Sammy Watkins ($21 million), defensive end Frank Clark ($19.3 million), receiver Tyreek Hill ($17.74 million), safety Tyrann Mathieu ($16.3 million), and defensive lineman Chris Jones ($16.126 million).
The Chiefs would immediately free $14 million by trading or cutting Watkins, a move that would become easier now that receiver Demarcus Robinson has been re-signed. Clark’s deal could be restructured easily, with for example $10 million of his $12 million salary converted to a guarantee, pushing $7.5 million to future years. Ditto for Mathieu, who has an $11.15 million salary — but only two years over which to spread a signing bonus (absent an extension).
Hill has a $910,000 salary and a $15.2 million roster bonus. If the roster bonus already has been earned, it’s too late to convert it to a guaranteed payment.
Jones, who is subject to the franchise tag, would surely emerge with a lower 2020 cap number if/when he signs a long-term deal. However, that’s usually a deadline-driven proposition. The deadline for signing franchise-tagged players to multi-year contracts is July 15.
Others who have large salaries that could be converted to signing bonuses include tackle Eric Fisher ($8.75 million), linebacker Anthony Hitchens ($7.8 million), and tight end Travis Kelce ($8 million). Like Mathieu, however, Fisher and Kelce are in the next-to-last years of their current deals, limiting the potential savings (absent an extension).
Entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, Mahomes has a cap number of $5.375 million. He is widely expected to eventually sign a new deal that would give him $40 million or more in new money. And he has not yet clamored for a new contract, possibly allowing the Chiefs to press pause on the proposition until 2021.