KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said Friday that he does not anticipate using the franchise tag on any free agents, something the team has done each of the past three seasons.
The Chiefs are poised to lose several key players from last year’s 11-5 team, including Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, Pro Bowl punt returner Dexter McCluster and starting defensive end Tyson Jackson, safety Kendrick Lewis and offensive guards Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz.
The deadline to use the franchise tag is March 3.
“Probably not,” Dorsey said. “We probably won’t use it.”
The Chiefs used the tag on Albert last season, paying him more than $9.8 million — the average of the top five salaries at his position the previous year. They could franchise him again but would be on the hook for 120 percent of Albert’s salary, a massive financial commitment for a team that is already bumping along just below the salary cap.
Kansas City used the franchise tag on linebacker Tamba Hali two years ago, eventually signing him to a long-term contract. The same story unfolded last year for wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who signed a $56 million, five-year contract one year after receiving the tag.
Dorsey did say that he’s having “ongoing conversations” with representatives of all of the Chiefs’ free agents, including Albert, but refused to get into the specifics.
“We will continue to have ongoing discussions with his representatives here at the combine,” Dorsey said. “We’ve done is we’ve reached out to every representative for every unrestricted free agent that we have, and we’ve also talked to Alex Smith’s representative as well.”
Smith won’t become a free agent until after the 2014 season, but signing him to an extension would not only lock him up but also offer some salary cap relief. Smith’s number this is season is $8 million, but the Chiefs could trim that roughly in half with an extension.
The Chiefs have already waived defensive back Dunta Robinson to free up salary, and it’s likely they will either restructure current contracts or part ways with some of their veterans in order to create more offseason flexibility.
“I don’t think it’s fair to talk about a player’s contract in a setting like this,” Dorsey said. “I think that’s not the proper business that you like to do.”
Dorsey did address several other issues at the combine, including his belief in building through the draft. That’s the same philosophy followed by his mentor, Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers, and one espoused by Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
That means that the Chiefs are unlikely to be quite as active as they were in free agency last year, when they turned over roughly half of their roster. Free agency begins March 1.
Still, there are plenty of holes to fill, especially along the offensive line.
“We look at everybody right now and make sure that you cover all the positions,” Reid said Thursday. “One of the tricks of the draft is that you take the best players available, if you can stay that disciplined to do so and make yourself a better football team.”
Other positions of need include free safety, where Lewis struggled much of the season, and wide receiver, where the Chiefs kept shuffling through options with little success.
“We have a pretty good group of young players to form a nice nucleus,” Reid said. “I look forward to adding guys too, and I’m a big believer that you build your team through the draft. Free agency can be a bit of a tease at times, and I think you have to be real careful.”