Kansas City Chiefs salary cap outlook: Jamaal Charles is a bargain

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

The "Shutdown Countdown" is going full steam ahead. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Kansas City Chiefs.

2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $137.067 million (5th-highest in the NFL)

2013 Cap Room Remaining: $3.562 million (8th-least in the NFL, as of July 10, 2013). However, the Chiefs have not yet signed No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher, who will have a first-year cap hit of $4,034,636. Since Fisher's contract will knock a $480,000 cap charge out of the "Top 51" contracts that count against the cap during the offseason, the Chiefs actually have around $20,000 in cap space.

Best Bargain: Running back Jamaal Charles bounced back from a torn ACL in 2011 to finish fourth in the NFL with 1,509 rushing yards last season. Charles likely would have finished second behind Adrian Peterson in rushing last season had it not been for miserable performances — 20 carries for 17 yards — in three games against the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders, who had two of the worst run defenses in the league.

[Related: Chiefs poised to turn things around very quickly]

Charles is entering the third season of a five-year extension signed on Dec. 11, 2010 and is scheduled to earn $1.75 million in base salary. Combined with a $1 million reporting bonus and $250,000 workout bonus, Charles will take home $3 million in cash compensation this season, which is tied for 16th (with Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory) among NFL running backs. Charles' $4.333 million cap number is outside the Top 10 among NFL running backs, ranking 13th, where he is sandwiched between Trent Richardson ($4.656 million) and Sproles ($3.75 million).

Potential Camp Cap Casualty: The Chiefs are pressed tight against their adjusted cap figure, but I wouldn't expect to see many big names cut before the start of the season. Instead, the Chiefs could create space by extending and restructuring the contracts of a few players with the highest cap figures. A good start would be reaching a multi-year extension with franchised left tackle Branden Albert, who is currently taking up $9.828 million in space on their 2013 cap.

An obvious candidate to restructure his contract is outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who is due $12.25 million in base salary and has a $15.5 million cap hit. A one-game suspension in 2012 for violating the substance abuse policy voided the guarantees on $7.75 million of Hali's base salary, so the Chiefs may wait until closer to the regular season to rework Hali's deal. But since $6 million of Hali's salary is deferred to 2014 anyway, converting a portion of that salary into a signing bonus could provide some salary cap relief in 2013. Cornerback Brandon Flowers ($7.35 million base, $5.25 million which is fully guaranteed), safety Eric Berry ($7.009 base salary, a portion of which is fully guaranteed) and quarterback Alex Smith ($7.5 million in fully guaranteed base salary) are also candidates for contract extensions/restructures.

Looming Contract Issue: The Chiefs and franchised left tackle Branden Albert are expected to resume contract talks this week as the July 15 deadline to reach an agreement on a multi-year deal is fastly approaching. Albert's camp has a bit of leverage as the Chiefs are pressed up against the cap, however, the club has some leverage after using the No. 1 overall pick on Fisher, who could replace Albert at left tackle as early as this season, which might have the Chiefs angling to pay Albert "right tackle money" ($6.5 million to $7 million per year, less than $20 million in guarantees) in an extension.

Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: Once Fisher is signed, the Chiefs will have 58 players under contract for the 2014 season with around $126 million in salary cap commitments. A contract extension or two and players triggering base salary escalators could see that figure increase. Looking further down the road to 2015, including the Fisher deal, the Chiefs will have 44 players under contract with at just over $123 million in salary cap commitments. Currently 53.3 percent of the Chiefs' cap dollars in 2014, and 55.6 percent of the cap dollars in 2015, are devoted to the defensive side of the ball. With Andy Reid now at the helm, that is likely to change.

Previous salary cap outlooks

32. Oakland Raiders

31. Jacksonville Jaguars

30. Arizona Cardinals

29. Buffalo Bills

28. Cleveland Browns

27. Tennessee Titans

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