The cash-strapped Kansas City Chiefs were quiet on the first day of NFL free agency with their biggest move Wednesday a restructuring of defensive end Frank Clark's contract in an effort to alleviate some of their financial misery.
Similar moves could be made in the coming days, potentially for wide receiver Sammy Watkins and offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif as the Super Bowl champions try to free up the resources to bolster their defense in free agency and sign star quarterback Patrick Mahomes to what could be a record-setting extension.
The Chiefs also have to decide what to do with Chris Jones, who was given the franchise tag earlier this week and would need to be offered a one-year deal worth at least $16,126,000. The problem is that number is almost untenable for Kansas City, which means general manager Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid have to decide whether to reach a long-term deal with him – something they failed to do last offseason – or attempt to trade him to a team with more cap space.
The trade would be akin to what the Seahawks did with Clark, who was given the franchise tag and then dealt to the Chiefs for a pair of draft picks. Veach proceeded to sign him to a $105.5 million, five-year contract extension.
"You're going to have to find, really, where a team is, right? Because you talk about a tag-and-trade, you're talking about draft quantity and money, and the team has to be in a position it makes sense for them," Veach said. "It was a unique setup last year and certainly we were happy to get that done and ultimately win the Super Bowl."
Watkins starred during the Chiefs' championship victory over San Francisco, and the club would love to have him back given they expect to lose wide receiver Demarcus Robinson in free agency. But he also carries a prohibitive $21 million hit against the salary cap next season, so Watkins' deal will likely be restructured if he isn't released.
"Sammy is a guy like Chris that we'll have dialogue with," Veach said. "There's different scenarios and options that will play out with him. He's a guy we do want back. These are good problems to have. You win a Super Bowl, you have a lot of good players. We'll talk about the landscape of where we are. What's the landscape for us and how can we make it work?"
The only deal the Chiefs have reached in free agency so far is a two-year contract with backup quarterback Chad Henne, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle. The Chiefs elected to bring him back as the second-string QB over Matt Moore, who was signed when Henne went down and wound up leading them to a pair of wins.
If the Chiefs manage to free up some salary cap space, expect them to target the best cornerbacks still available. They lost Kendall Fuller, Morris Claiborne and Bashaud Breeland to free agency, leaving them perilously thin at the position.
The Chiefs also could address that problem through the draft, though their selections will come at the end of each round.
"I get excited (about the draft) because Brett and his guys do such a good job, you know you're going to get a good player," Reid said. "I'm OK with it being 32. We're OK there. We get a player, get a good player that can help us – it doesn't have to be any particular position. It has to be someone who can come in and help you, whether it's this year or down the road."