KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The Chiefs released wide receivers Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins on Tuesday as they began to clear roster and salary cap space ahead of what could be a busy offseason.
All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston and stalwart center Rodney Hudson are eligible for free agency, and the Chiefs would like to keep both of them. But with some massive holes elsewhere and little space available under the salary cap, the first step for general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid was to part ways with a pair of unproductive wide receivers.
Avery was supposed to provide a speedy deep threat when he signed as a free agent two years ago. But after catching 40 passes for 596 yards and two touchdowns in 2013, he spent much of last season dealing with a sports hernia, and then was inactive the final two weeks.
Jenkins, who was acquired in a trade with San Francisco, only caught 17 passes for 223 yards in 25 games. He was part of a wide receiver corps last season that did not have a touchdown catch.
The Chiefs saved nearly $5 million in salary cap space by releasing Avery and Jenkins, but they will need to carve out far more than that to accomplish their offseason goals.
Houston could be franchised if the sides do not come to an agreement, but that would mean a one-year deal worth about $13 million. The Chiefs would prefer to reach a long-term deal, and are scheduled to meet with Houston's representatives on Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, a person familiar with the plans told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
Houston is coming off the most productive pass-rushing season in franchise history, piling up 22 sacks to break Derrick Thomas's record. The three-time Pro Bowl selection finished a half-sack off the NFL record set by Michael Strahan of the New York Giants in 2001.
The Chiefs have until March 2 to use the franchise tag. If they use it on anybody, they would have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract with that player.
Hudson another franchise option, especially if Houston's deal gets done. He was one of the league's top centers last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and the lone bright spot on an unsettled and often underachieving offensive line.
Chiefs manager John Dorsey refused to discuss potential moves that could be made to create some financial flexibility, but there are plenty of options. The Chiefs could get creative in the payouts to quarterback Alex Smith to free up salary cap space, and there are possibilities for relief from the contract of safety Eric Berry, who is undergoing treatment for cancer.
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