Can the Chiefs find cap space to keep Tyrann Mathieu?

Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs. (Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs. (Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Kansas City Chiefs will have to play salary cap gymnastics to be able to afford Tyrann Mathieu on a new contract in his impending free agency.

With the Kansas City Chiefs electing to use the franchise tag on offensive tackle Orlando Brown, that means an expensive star safety in Tyrann Mathieu will be going to market.

Brown was the first free-agent-to-be to be slapped with the tag. His tag will be for $16.5 million for the 2022 NFL season. This is the first time the former Oklahoma standout will be making big money, so good for him. However, this does make things all the more challenging for the Chiefs to re-sign Mathieu in his high-profile NFL free agency. Do the Chiefs have the means to do this?

FanSided‘s Matt Verderame outlines what Kansas City will probably have to do to get under the cap after tagging Brown and be able to re-up with Mathieu: Figure out what to do with defensive end Frank Clark and get wide receiver Tyreek Hill extended or possibly agree to a restructure.

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Clark and Hill are two of now six Chiefs players that are slated to make over $10 million in salary for 2022. Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones and Joe Thuney are the other three with Brown now making it six Chiefs in eight figures. Because the dead cap hits are so punitive for Jones, Mahomes and Thuney, this is why Clark and Hill are the two guys whose money is about to be messed with.

Cutting Clark is an option, as doing so will result in $13.4 million in available cap space. That number would increase if he was released post June 1. His dead cap hit would go from $12.9 million to a more reasonable $6.45 million. As far as Hill is concerned, he is slated to make $20.685 million this year, but only carries a dead cap hit of $2.65 million either way this year.

Some combination of Clark being released or agreeing to a restructure, coupled with a Hill extension, that could free up enough cap space to slap Brown with the franchise tag, sign Mathieu to a long-term deal and potentially pursue a marque wide receiver like Mahomes was hoping for. Though some wideouts will be tagged or stay put, at least one could wind up with the Chiefs.

The only way the Chiefs are able to bring back Mathieu is if Clark and Hill are willing to cooperate.

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