New head coach Vermeil facing salary cap problem
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Dick Vermeil concedes he knew some -- but apparently not all -- about the Kansas City Chiefs' salary cap problem when he accepted the head coach's job last month.
Vermeil acknowledged that the Chiefs are about $31 million over a 2001 salary cap that should be about $68 million per club. The Chiefs have until March 2 to get there.
"I'd rather it not be this way," Vermeil said. "We have people here that are capable of working through those problems. Hopefully I can contribute."
If the team doesn't reach its cap number by March 2, the NFL management council would begin voiding individual player contracts until the team hits the cap.
But even Vermeil isn't sure the Chiefs can shave 30 percent off their payroll and remain competitive.
"I'd like to believe we can be, but this is not the easiest way to go about that," he said. "To be successful in the National Football League, you've got to do it in spite of things from time to time."
The situation could keep the Chiefs from making a major acquisition in free agency, which also begins March 2.
"We'd like to try to add some high-quality players and some depth, but that's going to be hard to do until we get our salary cap in line."
The cap limitation also puts more pressure on the Chiefs to select an impact player in the first round of the draft April 21. They have their highest first-round selection -- 12th -- since 1989, when they drafted Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas with the fourth pick.
Their second-round pick went to St. Louis as part of the deal for the rights to hire Vermeil. The Chiefs have an extra third-round pick for allowing Washington to hire former head coach Marty Schottenheimer.
The period for designating a franchise or transition player began Thursday and runs through Feb. 22. The Chiefs would have nine free agents. Seven are unrestricted -- offensive linemen Will Shields, Tim Grunhard and Dave Szott, tight ends Jason Dunn and Troy Drayton, wide receiver Kevin Lockett and defensive lineman Ty Parten.
Of the unrestricted free agents, the Chiefs would most like to retain Shields, a six-time Pro Bowler. They could protect him with the franchise tag for the second consecutive year, but it would come at a great cost against the salary cap -- about $4.5 million.
The $10 million roster bonus due quarterback Elvis Grbac is responsible for a large chunk of the Chiefs' cap problems. The Chiefs have had preliminary conversations with Grbac and his agent, Jim Steiner, regarding a renegotiation to lower Grbac's cap number.
Grbac was in Kansas City on Thursday and Friday to meet with Vermeil, offensive coordinator Al Saunders and quarterbacks coach Terry Shea and begin to learn the new offense.