KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs would have been content in 2023 for Orlando Brown Jr. to be their left tackle and Frank Clark one of their defensive ends. They weren’t content with those prospects at any cost.
So instead of a future with both players, the Chiefs gained around $41 million against their salary cap on Monday with their decisions not to use their franchise tag on Brown and most likely release Clark. Brown would have cost the Chiefs about $20 million in his second consecutive season as the franchise player. Clark’s release would save the Chiefs about $21 million against the cap.
The Chiefs could still re-sign Brown to a long-term contract before free agency begins next week but the move would cost them against their cap less than $20 million, most likely far less.
Assuming there’s no long term contract for Brown, the decisions create a couple of lineup holes for the Chiefs. But the additional $41 million in cap space gives them some flexibility to make other moves.
“I don’t think you can go in there and have a set [plan],” general manager Brett Veach said last week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. “You have to have a plan, stick to it and knock it out of the park, but if the plan doesn’t work, you’ve got to move on quickly.”
The Chiefs are in the process of moving on. They’ll have plenty of additional cap room and they are expecting to have 12 draft picks, counting three additional selections once compensatory selections are awarded. Here is where the Chiefs stand ahead of the March 15 start of free agency:
They’re going to need a left tackle to replace Brown, assuming he’s not re-signed. They added an edge defender last year in the first round of the draft when they picked George Karlaftis, but would need another one if Clark departs.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones, who had 15.5 sacks last season, is headed into the final season of his contract, but the Chiefs might try to extend the deal. Jones will cost the Chiefs more than $28 million against their cap next season, so they would get more immediate relief if he’s given a new contract.
Another position where the Chiefs have work to do is wide receiver, where JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman are potential unrestricted free agents. The Chiefs last year looked to the future at wide receiver by drafting Skyy Moore in the second round and trading for Kadarius Toney.
Both players are looking at bigger roles next season.
“They’ll be more familiar with the offense mainly and so you can utilize them in different ways,” coach Andy Reid said. “Both of them are very talented. I really like their attitude toward the game.”