KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs recently completed contract renegotiation with left tackle Eric Fisher and linebacker Anthony Hitchens that free up cap space for the 2019 season, and now we know the numbers on those deals.
The Chiefs created approximately $10.7 million in immediate salary cap space, according to number first reported by Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports and confirmed by Chiefs Digest.
Fisher's deal converted his $10.35 million base salary for 2019 into a $9.545 million bonus. That drops his 2019 base salary to $805,000. The bonus gets prorated over the 2019 through 2020 seasons, bumping his cap number by almost $3.2 million in 2020 and 2021, but reducing his 2019 cap number by nearly $6.4 million.
The restructure with Hitchens follows a similar pattern. The deal converted nearly $5.7 million in base salary in 2019 into bonus money, spread out over the 2019 to 2022 seasons. That increases his cap number by approximately $1.4 million during the next three seasons, but it frees up almost $4.3 million in 2019.
The two deals combined free up approximately $10.7 million in cap space the Chiefs in 2019. The NFLPA salary cap report lists the Chiefs with $24,007,936 in available cap space in 2019.
The deals don't reduce the Chiefs' long-term cap expenses. What they do, however, is free up cap space for use in the short term. Even after completing the three-year extension with wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs have cap space available immediately for use in contract extensions or the acquisition of new players now. The club can also rollover that money into 2020, which is the earliest the club can negotiate an extension with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The deals to restructure contacts decreasing cap liability now but taking on additional increases later fits with strategies recently deployed by other teams. The salary cap expects to continue increasing, and a new collective bargaining agreement could bump that further. Joe Banner, former president of the Philadelphia Eagle during Andy Reid's time there and salary cap analysts points out the Dallas Cowboys used a similar strategy for extensions with
Hill's extension fit a similar pattern. The Chiefs gave Hill a $5.8 million signing bonus while dropping his 2019 base salary to a minimum of $720,000. They take a cap charge of just $2.197 million this season, while the cap hit increases to $17.65 million in 2020, $15.696 million in 2021 and $20.5 million in 2022.
Teams expect to see an increase in the salary cap in future seasons, which makes it beneficial to clubs to reduce cap numbers now while absorbing future cap bumps easier.
The Chiefs have three potential uses for their short-term cap savings. The club remains in the hunt for reinforcements at cornerback, and now have the cap space to accommodate a large contract if the opportunity arises. Money is also available for a potential extension with defensive end Chris Jones as well as preparing for Mahomes' expected mega-deal in the offseason.