Spiller, 30, wasn’t on the roster when the Chiefs opened the season with a 42-27 win over the New England Patriots on Thursday night. Without Spiller on the roster, the Chiefs rolled with Kareem Hunt and Charcandrick West at running back.
It worked well for the Chiefs as Hunt rolled to 148 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards and three total touchdowns in the starting role. West had just one rushing attempt and put the game on ice with a 21-yard touchdown of his own.
But now Spiller is back in Kansas City, and even if he has a reserve role, there’s a good chance he actually sticks for more than a few days this time.
Why continue to cut and sign Spiller? Vested veterans — a player with at least four NFL seasons under their belt — are guaranteed their full salary for the entire season as long as they are on the roster in Week 1.
Spiller spent five seasons with the Buffalo Bills, one season with the New Orleans Saints, and 2016 with the Seahawks and Jets. After seven years in the NFL, he’s due a minimum salary of $900,000 for the 2017 season.
The Chiefs are near the bottom of the NFL in cap space and can use that extra wiggle room. Bouncing Spiller on and off the roster may not seem like the most polite way to accomplish that, but it’s a shrewd strategy that isn’t too uncommon.
Kansas City did the same exact thing with offensive lineman Jordan Devey, who was released on Thursday and scooped back up after the Chiefs started the season with a win.
By releasing Spiller the first time, the Chiefs dropped his salary from $980,000 to $900,000. By releasing him a second time, the team cut out the guarantee and gave itself the option to move on at any time.
Is Spiller any good? Well ... no. If the Chiefs had more faith in Spiller, they’d have no problem just giving him $980,000 and would make more of an effort to keep him away from other teams.
Spiller was a Pro Bowler in 2012 with the Bills, but rushed for 300 yards in his final season with the team and the numbers have continued to decline. During his stints with the Jets and Seahawks in 2016, he had just three carries with each team and finished with 18 yards.
If he continues to average just three yards per carry, the Chiefs don’t want him eating $900,000 in space. And that’s why he’s continued to bounce on and off the roster so far in September.