The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t letting their tight salary cap situation stop them from being an active participant in free agency.
Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali and the Chiefs have agreed to restructure his massive contract, freeing up some much-needed cash that the club is using to sign Pro Bowl wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, two people familiar with the move told The Associated Press.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity late Sunday because the Chiefs do not comment on contract matters. Hali would have counted $12 million against the salary cap in the final season of the $57 million, five-year contract he signed before the 2011 season.
Three people with knowledge of the deal say Maclin is leaving the Philadelphia Eagles to rejoin former coach Andy Reid in Kansas City. Reid traded up to grab Maclin out of Missouri in the 2009 draft.
Those people spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because Maclin’s deal wasn’t finalized and can’t be announced until the NFL’s new season begins on Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT.
Free agents were allowed to start negotiating with teams Saturday.
The Chiefs were bumping along just below the salary cap after placing the franchise tag on All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston and re-signing linebacker Josh Mauga to a three-year deal. If they were unable to work out a deal with Hali or wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who has a similarly bloated contract, it would have been nearly impossible for them to maneuver this week.
Hali had said numerous times he would consider altering his deal if it meant staying with the Chiefs, who drafted him in the first round in 2006. That willingness is one more reason why Hali is generally regarded as one of the most popular players in the locker room.
He’s been voted to the Pro Bowl the past four seasons, even though the 31-year-old appeared to lose a step last season. He had just six sacks, his lowest total since the 2008 season.
Still, the weak market for high-end pass rushers means he would have been a hot commodity if available.
Maclin certainly had no shortage of suitors after starting all 16 games for the Eagles last season. He set career highs with 85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns, showing no lingering effects from the torn ACL that caused him to miss the entire 2013 season.
The Chiefs have been desperate to upgrade at wide receiver since before last season, when they failed to sign Emmanuel Sanders. Their wide receivers failed to catch a single touchdown pass last season, an oddity that seemed to haunt quarterback Alex Smith on a weekly basis.
Maclin would appear to be the perfect solution.
Not only was he born in suburban St. Louis, he went on to star just down Interstate 70 at Missouri. He was then drafted by Reid’s Eagles, becoming the kind of quick, elusive, down-the-field threat that seems to thrive in his variety of the West Coast offense.
Kansas City already has cut A.J. Jenkins and Donnie Avery as it retools its wide receiver corps, and Bowe’s future remains uncertain. He has struggled mightily in Reid’s offense, catching just 60 passes for 754 yards last season, and cutting him would save about $5 million.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
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