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Chiefs are releasing wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to save salary cap space, AP source says

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are releasing wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday, giving the Super Bowl champions some much-needed salary cap flexibility.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Chiefs had not announced the move, which would save $12 million that they could use to shore up their offense or help keep defensive stars Chris Jones and L'Jarius Sneed next season.

The Chiefs gave Valdes-Scantling a three-year, $30 million deal two years ago in the hopes that Patrick Mahomes could turn the former Packers wide receiver into a viable deep threat. But while Valdes-Scantling had memorable moments in Kansas City, including a TD catch in the Super Bowl, he was plagued by dropped passes and never put up the numbers the Chiefs expected of him.

He had 42 catches for 687 yards and two scores in 2022 and only 21 catches for 315 yards and a touchdown this past season.

The release of Valdes-Scantling was widely expected given his overall lack of production and the other needs faced by the Chiefs as they retool their roster and begin pursuit of an NFL-record third consecutive Lombardi Trophy.

The Chiefs' defense, which largely shut down the 49ers in the Super Bowl, has several important pieces hitting free agency, headlined by Jones and Sneed. General manager Brett Veach said at the NFL scouting combine the team could use the franchise tag on one — Sneed is the more likely candidate — but that the Chiefs would try to secure long-term deals with both of them.

The deadline to use the franchise tag is Tuesday. If the Chiefs use it on Jones or Sneed but cannot work out a long-term deal with them, there is also the possibility that Kansas City would trade them for draft compensation.

“You’d like to be able to tag all the guys and pay all the guys, and it’s tough, because the more you win the more you have to pay players,” Veach said Tuesday. "And obviously, when you have this amount of success, you’re paying players a lot of money.”

Among the Chiefs' other free agents on the defense, safety Mike Edwards became an important player alongside Justin Reid after a season-ending injury to Bryan Cook; Drue Tranquill became a regular at linebacker after signing a one-year deal to come over from the AFC West-rival Chargers this past season; Willie Gay Jr. has proven to be their most athletic and versatile linebacker; and defensive linemen Tershawn Wharton, Derrick Nnadi and Mike Danna played important roles.

The Chiefs also have positions to address on offense.

Left tackle Donovan Edwards will be a free agent along with Nick Allegretti, who started in the Super Bowl in place of injured left guard Joe Thuney. Backup running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon, wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Richie James, tight end Blake Bell and backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert also are free agents.

Longtime long snapper James Winchester and punter Tommy Townsend also will be free agents, though the Chiefs already appear to have moved on from Townsend after signing Matt Araiza to a contract late last week.

Araiza was dropped from a lawsuit in December that had been filed by a woman who alleged she was raped by San Diego State football players in 2021. Veach said the Chiefs went through “a long process” before they were comfortable signing him.

“When that came through, there was pretty much a green light in that it was an opportunity for him. Probably should have been in the league sooner than he was,” Veach said. “As far as the information and our process, there was no holdup there.”

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Dave Skretta, The Associated Press