Charles gets new contract, set to report to Chiefs camp

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — That loud, communal sigh of relief you just heard? That was fantasy football owners all over the country, once they checked their respective Twitter feeds.

Because Jamaal Charles, reportedly, is on his way to training camp.

After days of debate — Will he show? Won’t he? When? — Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network set the record straight between Charles and the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday afternoon:

Charles, 27, was a one-man, fantasy monster in 2013, leading the NFL last season in rushing touchdowns (12) and total touchdowns rushing and receiving (19). He singularly accounted for 40 percent of the Chiefs’ total offense under new coach Andy Reid.

He’d also been playing under a team-friendly contract — a five-year extension worth a reported $28 million, signed in December 2010. According to Spotrac.com, Charles’ $4.7 million annual average salary ranked No. 13 among active tailbacks. His cap hit was a reported $4.83 million and $7.33 million in 2015.

Charles had been slated to make $3.9 million this season. FOX Sports 1 NFL insider Mike Garofalo reported that Charles will be getting a new four-year deal through 2017 worth more than $28 million. That pulls the Texas native closer to peers such as Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, who’ll make $12 million in 2014, Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy ($8 million) and Chicago’s Matt Forte ($7.9 million).


With Charles, the debate wasn’t about talent, or relative worth. It was a question of making the numbers work and the team’s ability to get out of any deal quickly; as of Wednesday morning, the Chiefs had roughly $9 million of cap room to play with. Tailbacks are, literally, the tires of the NFL, now more than ever. Interchangeable. Customizable. One for first down, one for goal-line situations, one for blocking, one for passing downs, and so on. There are precious few all-weather tires — or all-weather ball-carriers — in the spread, no-huddle world of now.

But Charles is the exception to the rule, of course, one of the few, a tire that can handle any condition — rain, snow, sleet, bad roads — with absolute aplomb. Burst. Vision. Hands. Blocking. Smarts. You name it.

His value has never been greater. His position’s value has almost never been worse. There’s the rub. It’s the inverse of the dilemma Chiefs management has right now with quarterback Alex Smith, whose contract is up after this season. Smith is pretty good — at least on par with say, Chicago’s Jay Cutler, and Cutler earlier this year got handed a seven-year extension worth a reported $126 million.

A serviceable quarterback is worth twice an elite tailback, because elite tailbacks burn hot, burn fast, then, more often than not, burn out, especially once they hit 30.

NFL CHEERLEADERS: Check out our gallery of sideline shots from around the league.

Charles turns 28 on Dec. 27.

Veterans continued to filter into camp at Missouri Western State University on Wednesday. Chiefs officials told FOXSportsKansasCity.com that Charles had until before the team’s first all-squad practice — scheduled for Thursday at 3:30 p.m. CT — to report. Pro Bowl pass rusher Justin Houston had yet to report as of midday Wednesday, but teammate and fellow outside linebacker Tamba Hali said he’d heard Houston "was going to be here."

"Like coach (Reid) said, we just worry about the guys that are here," Hali said early Wednesday afternoon, before Charles’ deal was announced. "You know, the guys who show up, we’re going to play with them. We’ll leave that up to the general manager and the business side.

"I mean, obviously, we want everybody here. (But) the reasoning why he’s not here, that’s between management and his camp. Until he gets here, we’ve got to just roll with the punches, just roll with the guys we’ve got here."

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @SeanKeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.