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Kansas City Chiefs’ salary cap situation heading into 2021

After falling just short in 2020, what is the Chiefs’ salary cap situation entering the 2021 season, and how can they create more cap space?

Kansas City Chiefs salary cap situation heading into 2021
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 13: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs huddles his teammates against the Miami Dolphins during the second half in the game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 13, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

After falling just short in the Super Bowl, what is the Kansas City Chiefs’ salary cap situation heading into the 2021 NFL season? How much salary cap space do the Chiefs have heading towards the 2021 league season, and what options do they have to release players or restructure contracts?

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The Chiefs project to be around $19 million over the salary cap in 2021

As of February 27th, the 2021 salary cap projects to be around $185 million. The Chiefs will carry over $5.1 million in cap space to the 2021 season. Therefore, the Chiefs’ current salary cap projects to be $190.1 million.

As it stands, the Chiefs have just over $208 million in commitments to their top 51 highest-paid players, with an additional $700,000 in dead money. Therefore, the Chiefs are currently around $18.7 million over the salary cap heading into 2021.

To view the most up-to-date numbers for the Kansas City Chiefs’ salary cap space, check out our team by team 2021 salary cap space article, which is updated daily.

Kansas City has some tough decisions to make when it comes to releasing players

The Chiefs need to free up a lot of salary cap space prior to the 2021 NFL season. However, their big-money deals are tied up in some of their top players. Therefore, the Chiefs will have to make some tough decisions.

Could the Chiefs possibly move on from Eric Fisher or Mitchell Schwartz?

The Chiefs need to clear reasonably large amounts of cap space. In order to do so, they may have to make some decisions on their offensive line. The injury to Eric Fisher complicates matters a little, as he certainly won’t be healthy enough to pass a medical this offseason.

Additionally, the Chiefs’ offensive line seemed to completely fall apart in the Super Bowl when he was not present. However, the Chiefs could save around $12 million in salary cap space in 2021 if they release him. Given that none of his salary is guaranteed and he is injured, a more likely outcome is the Chiefs and Fisher agree to a significant pay cut in 2021.

Related | Chiefs Pre-Senior Bowl 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

Mitchell Schwartz will count $9.8 million against the Chiefs’ 2021 salary cap. Releasing him could save the Chiefs $6.1 million while leaving behind $3.8 million in dead money. This could be another situation where the Chiefs attempt to get Schwartz to take a pay cut to stay for another potential run to the Super Bowl in 2021.

What other Chiefs players could we see leave this offseason?

The Chiefs have a couple of players where they can save around $2 million in cap space in 2021. Interior defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi played just 43 percent of the snaps on defense, despite being active for 15 games. Releasing the fourth-year player would save the Chiefs $2.2 million in 2021 salary cap space, leaving $200,000 in dead money.

The other potential candidate for a release is Damien Williams. Williams opted out in 2020 after his superb playoff performance in 2019. However, the Chiefs drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round in 2020 and got serviceable performances from Darrel Williams last season. Therefore, they may decide Damien Williams is surplus to requirements. Releasing him would save $2.2 million in cap space, leaving $500,000 in dead money.

The Chiefs have a handful of players they can extend or restructure to create cap space in 2021

In order to create the significant salary cap space that the Chiefs need in 2021, they will need to rework some of their big-money deals. However, the Chiefs also have two players they could potentially extend to free up more cap space in 2021.

Could the Chiefs extend Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu this offseason?

Tyreek Hill has two years remaining on his contract, with a cap number of $11.9 million in 2021. The majority of that money is in the form of a roster bonus. The Chiefs could take that money, convert it to a signing bonus, and use the opportunity to add future years to Hill’s deals.

They will not want to go too long with a player already at age 27 and whose game relies on speed. However, the Chiefs could save as much as $9.8 million in salary cap space in 2021 with an extension.

Related | Top Kansas City Chiefs’ pending free agents in 2021

Mathieu is entering his deal’s final year and will count $19.7 million on the Chiefs’ 2021 salary cap. Of that money, $4.9 million is a prorated signing bonus that is not going anywhere. However, with $14.8 million in salary and workout bonuses, the Chiefs could save around $11 million in 2021 with an extension.

Could the Chiefs restructure one of their big-money deals?

The Chiefs can make basic moves to get back under the salary cap for 2021. However, if they want to improve the team, they need to make bigger moves.

Frank Clark expects to count $25.8 million against the cap in 2021. The Chiefs could save around $12 million with a conventional restructure. However, that would send Clark over $30 million in cap numbers in 2022 and 2023.

The Chiefs have a similar option with Mahomes, who will count $24.8 million in 2021. As part of that, Mahomes has a $21.7 million roster bonus that could be converted to a signing bonus. The Chiefs could save as much as $17.5 million in salary cap space in 2021. Spreading that across the next five years would only leave the Chiefs with an extra $3.5 million in salary cap.

While Chris Jones falls in a similar category to Frank Clark, Travis Kelce is a different story. Kelce will count $13.25 million against the cap in 2021. However, in 2022, his cap number is just $7.5 million.

Therefore, the Chiefs could simply move some of Kelce’s money into 2022 with a restructure. His salary is guaranteed this season, and would therefore be guaranteed next season as well. However, the Chiefs could easily move $6-9 million in salary and roster bonus to 2022. That would only leave Kelce with a cap number between $13.5 and $15.5 million.

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