Looking at Jamaal Charles’ Contract and Chiefs Salary Cap


According to KCTV5, Chiefs star running back Jamaal Charles is going to hold out of training camp in the hopes of earning a new contract with the Chiefs.

Charles’ situation is not all that different than the contract situation of Andre Johnson that I have alluded to in the past concerning the disgruntled wide receiver playing for years on an under market contract. Charles was one of the last signings under the old CBA, agreeing to a five year extension worth $27 million in December of 2010. Rather than fighting the uncertainty of the labor situation, Charles agreed to the deal in the midst of a 1,400 yard campaign in lieu of becoming a restricted free agent in 2011 in a very uncertain market.

Though Charles was injured in 2011, it became apparent that if he was healthy he was going to be grossly underpaid by the time 2012 rolled around. Following the mega contracts given to Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Deangelo Williams, a number of players earned massive contracts including Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, and Jonathan Stewart.  Foster’s contract had to be a dagger into the back of Charles as Foster was also set to be a restricted free agent when he signed his contract.

The following table presents the financials of the various running backs in the market:

PlayerAPYGuarantee1 Year Cash2 Year Cash3 Year Cash

The difference between Charles and everyone of his peers is startling. Four players earned $29 million or more in the first three years of their contract. All earned over $22 million. Charles earned $18.1 million.

From a performance standpoint its hard to make an argument that any has been better. When we break things down into dollars per annual contract value its clear who is one of the best bargains in the NFL.

PlayerRush YdsPass YdsTotal YdsTot Yds/APY

It’s no contest as to who has the greatest team value, which usually means a poor contract for the player.


Charles is only scheduled to earn $3.9 million this season, which will only further the split between he and the other players. That number ranks 14th in the NFL and is $985,000 less than James Casey will earn as a fullback/tight end for the Eagles. Casey played about 14% of the offensive snaps for the Eagles last season. Other players earning more include a seemingly washed up Chris Johnson ($4M from the Jets in free agency), Toby Gerhart ($4.3M in free agency from the Jaguars), and Donald Brown ($4M in free agency from the Chargers). In 2015 Charles salary will jump to $6 million, none of which is guaranteed in the event of an injury.

Charles is hitting the age where the declines in production often come fast and so does the decline in salary, a topic we touched on with Marshawn Lynch a few weeks ago. That kind of makes this his last opportunity to likely gain some leverage since his performance has been so good and he is the best offensive player on the team. Charles is currently the 8th highest paid player on the Chiefs.

Charles does not have as much to lose as some other player. While he does have a $1 million reporting bonus in his contract, he does not have any signing bonus money that can be forfeited. Charles had received a roster bonus in 2010 that is prorated like a signing bonus but does not count in the forfeiture equation. Players can also hold out for five days without real penalty. So this may turn out to be much ado about nothing.

For the Chiefs this is just another in a long line of players who are looking for new contracts from a team that really has very little cap room to be able to accommodate them all. Kansas City went on a spending spree of sorts in 2012 and Dwayne Bowe receiving a deal worth $11.2 million a season likely sets an expectation that the Chiefs should pay their perceived high end player, top end money.

In addition to Charles looking for a new contract, quarterback Alex Smith and pass rusher Justin Houston are both in the final year of their contracts and expecting new contracts. Kansas City has $10 million of cap room left for this season and already has $126 million committed to the 2015 salary cap. Smith is likely seeking around $18 million a season and Houston in the ballpark of $10 million. That makes for a very complex series of negotiations if the Chiefs want to keep this team together in hopes of making a long term contender rather than a one season surprise in the playoffs. It is one of the most delicate situations in the NFL and the news about Charles makes it that harder. Over the next few weeks we will see if the Chiefs are up to the task.




  • GeorgeOfClarence

    I’m usually pro player on hold outs and there is no question that Jamaal Charles is underpaid, but I feel like him more than most players made his own bed in this case. That deal he signed was incredibly risk adverse and moreover he got the greatest benefit a player can get from an long-term deal, to be paid in a season where you get injured and in the season coming off injury. The Cheifs should try and get him some money, but I can understand why they wouldn’t want to.

  • Ghoston

    Peterson has no guarantees next yr
    McCoy has 1 mil in guarantees left and could be cut
    Forte and Lynch has o guarantees left

    Here comes the change of the runningback contract

    Foster and Rice will be cut

  • NW86

    I understand why Charles feels underpaid, but I think he should wait until next year. Not only is he due $6M in cash next year (not bad), but KC will also be interested in getting him a new deal at that point, since he will count $7.3M against the cap, and they will be looking to lower as many 2015 cap hits as possible to fit in their other free agents. An extension at that point would look good for both sides. Of course, that allows the risk of Charles getting hurt this year and simply being released – but last time he avoided that risk, he ended up with this contract, which he was almost immediately unhappy with.

    • Jim

      If he’s going to hold out, this is the time. Consider the following scenarios:

      Charles has a bad year – leverage gone.

      Charles gets hurt – leverage gone.

      Chiefs miss the playoffs – leverage gone.

      Higher paid RBs get cut – leverage gone.

      • This sums it up. His leverage will never be higher than it is now

        • NW86

          Jim, your points are well taken. There would be a lot of risks involved in waiting.

          Jason, I still wouldn’t say “his leverage will never be higher”. If none of those 4 things happen, his leverage would be higher as the Chiefs will be in restructure/extend mode.

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  • Jim

    Not to mention Eric Berry’s contract expiring at the end of 2015. I don’t think Chiefs will be able to afford Smith, Houston and Berry, unless they go to a “buy now, pay later” approach like New Orleans/Dallas, and that’s without paying Charles any more money. Even assuming that Tamba Hali will be a cap casualty after this season, that’s a tight cap.

  • Anders

    Looking at that list, only McCoy, Lynch and Forte has really been worth it (If Rice can bounce back, he will be worth it again, but after last season, it looks grim), but McCoy, Lynch, Forte is also in my top 3 of RBs together with Charles and AP.

    Another reason why Charles should get paid, Andy Reid’s offense is very reliant on an all purpose back like Charles.

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