Looming decisions on players entering final year of contracts with Chiefs

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel (10) throws during the second half against the San Diego Chargers in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel (10) throws during the second half against the San Diego Chargers in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

It is never too early to look ahead, especially when it comes to the decisions the Chiefs have in front of them surrounding contract-year players.

The Chiefs have 29 players currently on the 90-man offseason roster entering the final year of contracts, according to the NFLPA database.

Some of the players are eligible for unrestricted free agency based on accumulating four or more accrued years in the league, while others are eligible for restricted free agency (less than four tenured years) or are exclusive rights free agents (three or less tenured years).

The Chiefs can work on extending select contracts, such as the team accomplished in 2014 with quarterback Alex Smith, running back Jamaal Charles, fullback Anthony Sherman and defensive end Allen Bailey.

But barring extensions, the following players are scheduled to become free agents following the 2015 campaign. Base contract figures noted below are from the NFLPA:

Quarterback Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray

Daniel will earn a base salary of $3.7 million in his final year, making him the most expensive backup signal caller on the Chiefs’ roster behind starter Alex Smith.

Bray, who joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2013, and second-year pro Aaron Murray will each earn a base salary of $510,000 in 2015.

The Chiefs would be left with Smith and Murray if Daniel and Bray aren’t brought back in 2016.

Running back Cyrus Gray, Charcandrick West

Gray, who returns from an ACL injury, enters the final year a four-year deal and earns a base salary of $660,000.

He and West, who will be an exclusive rights free agent in 2016, are vying for the No. 3 running back spot and are key contributors on special teams.

Wide receiver Jason Avant, Junior Hemingway

With 12 wide receivers currently on the offseason roster ahead of training camp, the Chiefs have plenty of options to consider at wide receiver if Avant and Hemingway aren’t brought back next year.

Tight end Demetrius Harris, Richard Gordon, Ryan Taylor

Harris, who was tendered as an exclusive rights free agent in March, will earn a base salary of $510,000 in 2015. He is behind the power curve, however, after undergoing foot surgery in early May.

Gordon and Taylor were signed to one-year deals.

The Chiefs currently have six tight ends on the roster: Travis Kelce, rookie James O’Shaughnessy, Adam Schiltz, Harris, Gordon and Taylor.

Offensive line Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson, Derek Sherrod, Tavon Rooks

Allen and Stephenson headline the quartet, and it remains to be seen if the Chiefs are willing to bring either back in 2016.

General manager John Dorsey has shown a willingness in recent years to part with offensive linemen, namely left tackle Branden Albert, guard/tackle Geoffrey Schwartz and center Rodney Hudson.

Allen and Stephenson could command a large contract when considering each brings starting experience to the table.

Stephenson has appeared in 44 games with 14 starts since joining the Chiefs in 2012 and  Allen has appeared in 32 games with 28 starts in that same span.

Allen is due a base salary of $973,249 in 2015, while Stephenson will earn $660,000.

Defensive line Mike DeVito, Jaye Howard, Vaughn Martin, Nick Williams

DeVito restructured the final year of his contract in March. He was originally scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.75 million, but agreed to a pay cut, which pays a base salary of $870,000.

Howard, who joined the Chiefs on Sept. 1, 2013 after being claimed off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks, will earn a base salary of $660,000.

Martin joined the Chiefs during the offseason on a one-year deal, while the Chiefs signed Williams from the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad on Nov. 24, 2014.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson, James-Michael Johnson, Josh Martin, Dezman Moses, Frank Zombo

The biggest decision surrounds Derrick Johnson, who enters his 11th season. Johnson turns 33 in November and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $4 million in 2015.

Cornerback Sean Smith, Jamell Fleming, Aaron Hester

Smith will earn a base salary of $4.25 million in 2015 and is sure to command a big contract in free agency.

The Chiefs have used the draft in two straight years to select cornerbacks, namely Phillip Gaines in 2014 and Marcus Peters and Steven Nelson in 2015.

Safety Eric Berry, Husain Abdullah, Daniel Sorensen, Tyvon Branch

Berry finished the 2014 season on the non-football injury list after being diagnosed with lymphoma. But the Chiefs have a hard decision given Berry is due a base salary of $5.1 million in 2015.

Abdullah, started all 16 games last season, will earn a base salary of $745,000 in 2015.

Sorensen is in the final year of his two-year contract and will be an exclusive rights free agent.

Branch signed a one-year in March.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS 

Outside linebacker Justin Houston’s status should clear by July 15, which is the deadline for the Chiefs and Houston’s agent to have either a multiyear contract or an extension in place.

The Chiefs exercised a fifth-year option on defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who was set to become a free agent in 2016. The transaction will pay Poe a base salary of $6.1 million in 2016, but more importantly affords the Chiefs time to work on a long-term deal before Poe is eligible for free agency in 2017.

Outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who took a pay cut after restructuring his contract in March, could become an unrestricted free agent in 2016 barring an extension.

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Herbie Teope is the lead beat writer and reporter for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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