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Why Tyson Jackson's Pay Cut Was the Chiefs' Biggest Move of the Offseason

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Why Tyson Jackson's Pay Cut Was the Chiefs' Biggest Move of the Offseason
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the more unique teams in the league this year. Not only do the Chiefs have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but they also don’t have the glaring needs that you would expect a 2-14 team to have. The obvious needs had been quarterback, wide receiver, left tackle and defensive end, based on which players were guaranteed to be on the roster and not at risk of being cap casualties.

Even before the start of the new league year, the Chiefs have taken care of those issues to varying degrees. They traded for Alex Smith, re-signed Dwayne Bowe, franchise tagged Branden Albert and now have restructured Tyson Jackson’s contract.

Jackson’s new contract is worth “up to $5.2 million,” and he’s still a free agent in 2014, according to Bill Williamson’s report for ESPN. Put simply, Jackson agreed to take a pay cut that saves the Chiefs $12.27 million against the salary cap.

Whereas trading for Smith solved one big issue, re-signing Bowe solved half an issue and tagging Albert may or may not have solved anything, Jackson’s pay cut has solved multiple issues.

The Chiefs not only addressed one of the biggest team needs by retaining Jackson, but they saved a ton of money. Jackson’s pay cut in many ways is what enabled them to make some of these other moves, or it will help them in free agency.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jackson's pay cut covers all of Alex Smith's 2013 salary and more.

Jackson’s pay cut covers Smith’s $9.75 million cap figure in 2013, plus more than half of Bowe’s 2013 cap figure. Put another way, Jackson gave the Chiefs room to sign multiple free agents and the cap room to absorb the No. 1 overall pick’s cap hit in 2013 twice over.

That’s a lot of money.

Releasing Jackson would have been equal savings, and $5.2 million might be a little high for Jackson but trying to fill two holes at defensive tackle in one offseason would have been difficult. It’s worth considering the value in terms of Jackson’s projected value and how his reduced pay compares to what he would have cost the Chiefs if released.

Jackson would have cost $3.2 million against the cap if released, according to spotrac.com, which means his functional cost to the Chiefs is just $2 million more than it would have been had he been released. Finding a 3-4 defensive end for about $2 million would have been no easy task, plus Jackson still has some potential if the scheme is tweaked.

The Chiefs probably realize that Jackson showed some promise last year as a pass-rusher when the team started using more one-gap concepts. The change allowed Jackson to be aggressive instead of playing multiple gaps. In a one-gap 3-4, Jackson can actually try to get to the quarterback like he did three times from Week 11 to 14 last season.

A one-gap 3-4 doesn’t just help Jackson.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
A more aggressive 3-4 defense would benefit Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe.

However, even if the Chiefs continue to use the two-gap 3-4, Jackson has proved to be a solid two-gap run defender. It’s not a glamorous job, which is part of the reason he never had a chance to match his lofty draft status. That’s really not his fault, and he’s still a decent player.

It’s worth noting that Jackson’s run defense dipped slightly when he tried to get to the quarterback, but that’s to be expected for a guy who has been doing the same thing since being drafted in 2009. With a full training camp and practice, Jackson could improve enough in a one-gap scheme to make him the impact player he needed to be when the Chiefs drafted him.

If Jackson can do that, he can start to gain the respect of Chiefs fans again. Taking a huge pay cut should certainly start the process of endearing him to the fanbase.

If you think about it, the pay cut is basically the same thing as releasing Jackson and signing an equal player for $2 million. The Chiefs win by getting $12 million in cap savings and a solid player, and Jackson wins by getting more money than he probably would have on the open market. Both sides are probably very happy.

Jackson is just 27 years old and is going to get a chance to rehabilitate his value. It’s hard to bet against him, especially if the Chiefs pair a rookie defensive end with more pass-rush ability like Star Lotulelei on the opposite side.  

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