The Kansas City Chiefs moved swiftly to solidify the middle linebacker spot Friday, agreeing to terms with veteran Josh Mauga on a three-year contract.
The deal will not become official until Monday, a person familiar with it told The Associated Press on Friday on condition of anonymity because the team had not confirmed the contract.
The Chiefs also tendered wide receiver Junior Hemingway, an exclusive-rights free agent. Hemingway had 12 catches for 108 yards last season.
Mauga signed with the Chiefs last off-season and wound up playing a vital role in a defence that was among the league’s best. The Chiefs lost Joe Mays to wrist surgery in training camp and Derrick Johnson to a torn Achilles tendon in the season opener, forcing Mauga into a starting role the entire season. He wound up making a career-best 102 tackles.
Mauga wasn’t without his share of critics, though. The middle linebacker is designed to make stops in the Kansas City defence, and Mauga missed his share of opportunities.
The move to retain him came one day after the Chiefs parted ways with Mays, saving about $3 million in salary cap space. Kansas City cleared nearly $2 million more Friday by cutting veteran defensive tackle Vance Walker, who signed a three-year, $13 million deal last off-season.
Kansas City has already franchised outside linebacker Justin Houston, which means he will be due more than $13 million next season — unless the sides can work out a long-term deal.
That means more moves could come in the next few days as the Chiefs work to carve out more space below the salary cap. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and outside linebacker Tamba Hali, both with massive salary cap numbers, have expressed their willingness to restructure their deals.
The Chiefs could also gain some relief by working out a way around safety Eric Berry’s contract. He would gobble up more than $8 million in cap space, even though he is undergoing treatment for lymphoma and it is unlikely that he will play next season.
All teams must be under the salary cap by the start of free agency Tuesday.