Chiefs GM: Salary cap required proactive changes on D

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The Kansas City Chiefs spent the past week shedding big-name, big-money defensive players.

Justin Houston was cut. So was Eric Berry. Franchise-tagged pass rusher Dee Ford was traded for a second-round pick next year. Starting corner Steven Nelson left in free agency.

On Thursday, Chiefs GM Brett Veach admitted that shedding former pillars on defense had to do with managing the future salary cap.

"The cap was certainly a big part of these decisions," Veach said, via the team's official website. "Where we were, what was going to be utilized in regard to cap space and how we can maneuver ourselves to potentially do long-term extensions with other players [played a role]. I think the fact that we have a [first-round pick] and two [second-round picks] this year and then a [first-round pick] and two [second-round picks] next year puts us in a position to be aggressive from now until the start of the season.

"So, I think you start with the cap and, again, they're tough decisions, but I think it's something that -- looking toward not just next season, but the next two, three, four and five years -- if you're not proactive in your approach, then you're always chasing your tail and you're always in a position where you don't have draft capital or cap space."

K.C. added safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Alex Okafor during free agency.

For all the due love that former Chiefs GM John Dorsey has received this week for his work in Cleveland, it shouldn't be overlooked that when he left Kansas City in 2017, he exited with a messy cap situation.

The Chiefs were stuck up against the cap this offseason, necessitating the shedding of long-time stalwarts. Veach's goal is to set his team up down the road so they can avoid such painful decisions.

With receiver Tyreek Hill, defensive lineman Chris Jones and eventually quarterback Patrick Mahomes looking to break the bank with new contracts, Veach is trying to get out in front of the situation.

"Looking at both now and into the future, we have a lot of great young talent," Veach said. "We have guys like Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones and Tyreek Hill, and one of the things that we made a strong effort to do when I took over was to make sure that we had good, young talent in the pipeline but also that we're cap flexible and have draft capital."

In the meantime, Veach and coach Andy Reid will lean on Mahomes' magic and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to help fill the gap left by the departing defenders.

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