KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs have released one of their career sack leaders and a veteran stalwart of their secondary, moves designed to help Kansas City get younger on defense and have some financial freedom for the start of free agency.
The Chiefs parted ways with longtime linebacker Tamba Hali, and on Monday, Hali thanked the Chiefs in a tweet.
Kansas City also announced it was releasing safety Ron Parker, who had missed just one game over the past four seasons and provided some stability when Eric Berry was injured last season.
Hali was due a base salary of $5,750,000 this season with a salary cap hit of more than $9 million, and his release will only cost them about $1.7 million in dead money. Parker’s release saves about $5.3 million against the salary cap.
The Chiefs were strapped for cash heading into the offseason, necessitating moves on several fronts. They’ve already voided the contract of linebacker Derrick Johnson, their career tackles leader, to save about $8 million, and released cornerback Darrelle Revis to save $4.5 million.
They’ll save some more when the new league year begins Wednesday. That’s when the trade of Alex Smith, which his salary cap number of $17 million, to the Redskins for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a draft pick becomes official. The Chiefs will also save a bit of money when their trade of cornerback Marcus Peters to the Rams for two more draft picks becomes official.
The Chiefs only rolled over about $2.6 million in salary cap space from last season, so freeing up space to address their leaky defense — and perhaps help new quarterback Patrick Mahomes II with some offensive weapons — was of paramount importance for new general manager Brett Veach.
“You look at every situation and every position group and if it makes sense from a structural standpoint, a schematic standpoint and also a cap standpoint,” Veach said during last week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis. “And it really is just the schematic standpoint and the cap standpoint along with the age, and if you get all those things pointing in the right direction, you go that route.”
Make no mistake: The Chiefs had aged considerably on defense the past couple of years, especially in the linebacker corps, where Johnson and Hali had been the foundation for years.
Hali was the 20th overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Penn State, started every game as a rookie and never really looked back. He became a fan-favorite and went to five consecutive Pro Bowls beginning with the 2011 season, when he had 12 sacks and forced four fumbles.
He combined to add 20 more sacks over the next couple seasons, but the decline soon began for the 34-year-old pass rusher. He started just two of 16 games during the 2016 season, when knee pain caught up to him, and only appeared in five games last season after beginning the year on the PUP list.
When asked in January what his plans were for the future, Hali acknowledged he was “leaning more toward” retirement but wanted to leave the door open to returning for another season.
He has plenty of interests away from football, including a hip-hop recording company.
The 30-year-old Parker should have plenty of suitors in free agency. He made 279 tackles, seven sacks and picked off nine passes after finally getting his break with Kansas City. Parker’s age combined with his cost for next season ultimately forced his release.
“It’s kind of today’s world in the NFL,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said during the combine, when asked about the push to get younger. “Guys change teams and move. We think we have some good young players and feel comfortable with them.”