This week on It's Always Sunny in Chiefs Kingdom, Austin and I were joined by special guest and fellow Arrowhead Report writer Sam Hays to answer some mailbag questions, but before we opened the mailbox, we spent time on the biggest news of the week, Kansas City's four-year deal with their monster-in-the-middle, defensive tackle Chris Jones.
Knowing that many fans will use this news to speculate about the team's salary cap fate, I decided to pull some data on the 2021 and 2022 salary cap of each NFL team and compare it with the 2019 snap counts for those players under contract. The idea here is to see roughly how many players each team has accounted for in the near future.
Obviously all snaps are not created equal, and many players missed time due to injuries across the league last season. Patrick Mahomes logged 880 snaps in 2019 while Jameis Winston logged 1128, but Mahomes is the one with the half-a-billion-dollar contract while Winston is now a third-string QB. So maybe 2019 snap count is a flawed metric in the first place, but I was still interested in what it might show.
Above are the 2021 and 2022 totals for 2019 snap counts on each roster. The 2021 Chiefs roster has players who totaled 13,262 snaps in 2019, which ranks 26th in the NFL. The following season they rank 23rd.
It is once again worth noting that the 2019 Chiefs saw injuries to players such as Patrick Mahomes, Eric Fisher, Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones, Alex Okafor, and Armani Watts, who are all on the 2021 roster. If they have a more positive injury fortune moving forward, all of those players will be expected to contribute more snaps than they logged in 2019.
Now we move on to salary cap space. How are all 32 teams looking as far as their 2021 and 2022 caps are concerned?
Here we can see that the Chiefs have tied up the fourth-most money in the 2021 cap and the ninth-most in the 2022 cap. Simply put, if each team was paying a dollar amount for 2019 snaps, the 2021 Chiefs are paying the second-highest price in the NFL at $15,132 (trailing only the Philadelphia Eagles at $15,592) and the Chiefs are paying the highest price in 2022 at $19,454 per snap.
Do these numbers constitute "cap hell"? They're certainly stretched thinner than most teams, but Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt is also the Chairman of the NFL's Finance Committee, and it would strike me as shocking if someone who is that plugged into the financial landscape of the NFL would be comfortable putting his own franchise in such a precarious position. What seems more likely to me is that Hunt knows the cap is expanding and has accounted for that in the team's mega-deals for Mahomes, Jones, Hill, and Frank Clark.
It's also worth arguing that the other 31 teams in the NFL would gladly pay a premium price for players such as Mahomes, Hill, Jones, and Clark, because those players are worth every dollar when they suit up on Sundays. Among all NFL players in 2021 cap hits, Clark ranks 14th, Mahomes 16th, Jones 25th, and Hill 62nd. In 2022, it's Mahomes seventh, Clark 11th, Jones 18th, and Hill 25th.
For the talent that those four bring to the field, the real hell might be reserved for whoever is playing against the Chiefs.