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Chiefs have $177.00 in cap space

Mike Florio and Chris Simms look at the early division favorites for the 2020 NFL season and explain why the Saints and Chiefs still stand out among the elites.

The Patriots are fairly tight against the cap. The Chiefs are squeezed against it.

Field Yates of has posted the current cap numbers, and New England’s $891,775 doesn’t look like much, until it’s compared to Kansas City’s.

The Chiefs have (the headline gave it away) $177.00 in cap space.

For starters, the situation makes a new contract with quarterback Patrick Mahomes impossible, until cap space is created.

The biggest current cap numbers belong to receiver Sammy Watkins ($21 million), defensive end Frank Clark ($19.3 million), receiver Tyreek Hill ($17.74 million), safety Tyrann Mathieu ($16.3 million), and defensive lineman Chris Jones ($16.126 million).

The Chiefs would immediately free $14 million by trading or cutting Watkins, a move that would become easier now that receiver Demarcus Robinson has been re-signed. Clark’s deal could be restructured easily, with for example $10 million of his $12 million salary converted to a guarantee, pushing $7.5 million to future years. Ditto for Mathieu, who has an $11.15 million salary -- but only two years over which to spread a signing bonus (absent an extension).

Hill has a $910,000 salary and a $15.2 million roster bonus. If the roster bonus already has been earned, it’s too late to convert it to a guaranteed payment.

Jones, who is subject to the franchise tag, would surely emerge with a lower 2020 cap number if/when he signs a long-term deal. However, that’s usually a deadline-driven proposition. The deadline for signing franchise-tagged players to multi-year contracts is July 15.

Others who have large salaries that could be converted to signing bonuses include tackle Eric Fisher ($8.75 million), linebacker Anthony Hitchens ($7.8 million), and tight end Travis Kelce ($8 million). Like Mathieu, however, Fisher and Kelce are in the next-to-last years of their current deals, limiting the potential savings (absent an extension(.

Entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, Mahomes has a cap number of $5.375 million. He is widely expected to eventually sign a new deal that would give him $40 million or more in new money. And he has not yet clamored for a new contract, possibly allowing the Chiefs to press pause on the proposition until 2021.