KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — As the first hour of free agency came to a close Tuesday, the flood of players headed out of Arrowhead Stadium for big-money deals had finally slowed to a stop.
Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert was a Dolphin. Pro Bowl punt returner Dexter McCluster was a Titan. Defensive tackle Tyson Jackson and guard Jon Asamoah were headed for the Falcons, while fellow guard Geoff Schwartz appeared on his way to the Giants.
All of them were significant contributors to last year’s dramatic turnaround, when Kansas City went from two wins in 2012 to an 11-5 record and the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the only move Kansas City made Tuesday was to re-sign defensive back and special teams star Husain Abdullah. The Chiefs had earlier brought back linebacker Frank Zombo.
None of that was surprising for the cash-strapped Chiefs, who turned over about half of their roster after the arrival of general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid last season. They only have about $9.6 million available under the salary cap this year, and roughly $5 million of that will be used to sign their own draft picks.
So, while a handful of their former players agreed to deals elsewhere worth more than $100 million, the Chiefs were forced to start considering the second tier of free agents.
Those deals may develop in the coming days and weeks. The Chiefs need help at several spots, including wide receiver, free safety and offensive guard.
Perhaps the least surprising move Tuesday was the Dolphins agreeing to terms with Albert on a $46 million, five-year deal. Kansas City franchised Albert last season before nearly working out a trade to Miami. Negotiations eventually fell through, and Albert played well enough — when he was healthy — to earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
The Chiefs at least have options to replace him on the roster. Right tackle Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, could swing to the left side, or up-and-coming backup Donald Stephenson could step into the void.
The departures of Jackson, Asamoah, McCluster and Schwartz are more troublesome. The Chiefs already lacked depth at defensive end, wide receiver and the interior of the offensive line.
There was some interest from the Chiefs in bringing back McCluster, who flourished as a slot receiver and punt returner last season. But the two sides never appeared close to a deal, and the dynamic return man ultimately signed a $12 million, three-year deal with Tennessee.
The Titans had no immediate comment on the contract, but McCluster wrote on Twitter, “Very excited to join the @TennesseeTitans.”
Jackson and Asamoah landing in Atlanta was hardly a surprise. Both players were drafted by former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, who has since joined the Atlanta front office.
“They are good football players and solid in many ways,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a conference call. “They add to the toughness, the size and the grittiness of our team. That was a goal we had set out at the beginning of the offseason to accomplish.”
It may have made the Falcons tougher, but it also weakened the Chiefs, who were unable to be much of a player given the amount of money that was being tossed toward their former players.
AP Sports Writers Paul Newberry in Atlanta, Steven Wine in Miami and Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.