Building a Champion: How the Chiefs Spend Their Money on Offense

How have the Kansas City Chiefs built their offense compared to other teams' salary-spending strategies? The numbers will probably catch you by surprise.
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Most NFL teams have largely solidified their rosters for the 2021 season, even with training camp roughly a month away. The makeup of each NFL roster and how they were built is now clear. It is possible to take a gander across the entire landscape of the league and see how teams stand out from their peers when it comes to roster construction.

One interesting aspect of team-building assessment comes when you take a look at what positions teams pay up for. The Miami Dolphins, for example, have invested quite a bit of money in the cornerback position, signing Xavien Howard and Byron Jones to large contracts in recent years. Due to this spending spree, the Dolphins seem to value competent cornerbacks for their defense. This roster philosophy led to the Dolphins being No. 1 in cornerback spending this offseason.

The Chiefs are no exception when it comes to this phenomenon, though they do not quite stand out as the Dolphins do at cornerback (except at one position). Where do the Chiefs land in relation to the rest of the NFL's spending habits for the 2021 season? Here are a few stand-out position groups from the offensive side of the ball.

Quarterback: 23rd in 2021 spending

The Chiefs are not too much of an outlier when it comes to quarterback spending, but it is notable that the Chiefs are only 23rd in spending with Patrick Mahomes on the roster.

I have written about Mahomes's contract before and why it is so beneficial for the Chiefs. General manager Brett Veach took full advantage of Mahomes's contract this offseason by restructuring it fully, lowering Mahomes's contract to only a $7.43 million salary cap hit. 

With restructures, Mahomes will continue to cost less than what a quarterback of his stature should cost for the foreseeable future. That fact is a huge boon for the Chiefs who will continue to rank well in quarterback spending well beyond the 2021 season.

Tight End: 10th in 2021 spending

Much like their quarterback spending, tight end is notable for the Chiefs because they are getting substantial bang for their buck.

Despite having Travis Kelce and quality backups behind him with Blake Bell and Noah Gray, the Chiefs only barely crack the top-10 in tight end spending.

This is partially because Kelce restructured his contract this offseason to the tune of $5.3 million. However, Kelce only counts against the 2022 salary cap at $8.9 million even after the restructure. The Chiefs might have the best value in a tight end room anywhere in the NFL if Gray realizes his rookie hype.

Offensive Tackle: 27th in 2021 spending

One year ago, the Chiefs were fourth in offensive tackle spending. Going from fourth to 27th shows how quickly the NFL can change.

With the most expensive tackle being Mike Remmers at $3.3 million, the Chiefs are not spending big at the premiere offensive line position — yet.

That will change in the near future. Orlando Brown Jr. will command big money sooner rather than later and will bring this group closer to average all by himself. If a player like Lucas Niang steps up, however, the Chiefs will probably refrain from spending top-10 money at the position, which would be a nice advantage over many teams in the NFL.

Center: 30th in 2021 spending

When the two players competing for the starting job at a position are a veteran making close to the minimum and a rookie, the spending at that position will be quite low.

Creed Humphrey and Austin Blythe might be 30th in the league in cost to employ this season, but the talent is not 30th in the league. The Chiefs should have some quality value propositions at center this year and get a leg up on the rest of the league because of it.

What does this mean for the Chiefs?

For the 2021 season, the Chiefs are underspending on the offensive line compared to the rest of the league. However, they are only underspending when it comes to salary cap money. Joe Thuney and Orlando Brown will make considerably more in the very near future. Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith and Lucas Niang are all possible starters on rookie contracts. The Chiefs spent on the offensive line, but it was in the form of draft picks and contracts that will not get expensive until 2022 and beyond.

Outside of the offensive line, there are only a few notable differences between the Chiefs and the NFL on average. Contract restructures are the story of many of the Chiefs' offensive players, which speaks to the unique ways the Chiefs have built their offensive roster; an offensive roster that ranks 26th in the NFL in 2021 salary cap spending while being one of the best units in the sport.

Considering the Chiefs’ offensive spending, how does the defense fare? Tune in next week for part two to examine where the Chiefs stand on defensive spending.

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