When Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro, Chris Jones missed the ring ceremony celebrating the team’s latest Lombardi Trophy in June, fans felt he was slighting the franchise. Rumor has it he was sick. But when he praised the team, and his General Manager, Brett Veach, when they won their ESPY’s as the best team in the NFL, things seemed positive. But are they?
I’ve never been one to panic when it came to players holding out for more coins. In Kansas City, the latest drama between, Chiefs Defensive End, Chris Jones, and General Manager, Brett Veach, was certainly predictable. Jones is coming off one of his best seasons, he made the biggest play of his career late in the AFC Title game when he sacked Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback, Joe Burrow. Now he wants to get paid and retire as a Chief.
Jones from all accounts bleeds Chiefs red, he’s never wavered in his stance that he intends to play in Kansas City until he hangs up his cleats. He’s also a very emotional player, as we saw in the AFC Title game when he had tears in his eyes after the sack of Burrow.
Still his cryptic tweets, and curious likes on social media, generally drive Chiefs fans crazy. However, that’s just how Jones roles when it comes to bantering with fans. From all accounts, Jones is adored by his teammates and is a class act in every facet of his life.
Though players such as Patrick Mahomes, and Travis Kelce, have made mention of his absence in camp, they understand the business side of the NFL. Though Mahomes stated he has been speaking with Jones, I’m sure some conversation about the contractual impasse was brought up but likely not dwelled upon.
Yet with the six-game suspension of Chiefs Free Agent Defensive End, Charles Omenihu, suddenly Jones has more leverage now. How he chooses to use it, or how the Chiefs plan to fill that void if a long-term deal can’t get resolved with Jones, remains to be seen.
Jones also has a dilemma on his hands. With the new CBA negotiated two years ago with the NFLPA, if a player under contract misses one preseason game, they forfeit their week one paycheck. So, if Jones, misses all three games in August, he’s out millions of dollars. Though he’s in the third year of a four-year, $80M contract, that’s still a bite of cash to leave on the table.
Bottom line the fines that can’t be swept under a contract like in years past, thanks to the new CBA, another win for the Owners, appear to be piling up for Chris Jones.
The two-time Super Bowl champion defender can certainly afford the fine but is it worth a long holdout to garner a few more dollars? Rumblings suggest the Chiefs have offered an annual package in the $26-27M range. Whereas Jones agents, the Katz Brothers, want a deal closer to $30M per season. Now Veach could backload the deal, but Jones likely wants guarantees close to $90M.
Still, it’s a slippery slope for the Chiefs because Jones is 29 years old. To date, he’s been a warrior on the field, and a locker room leader. Yet how many productive seasons does he have left in his cleats? Based on his work ethic, championship mentality, and the fact he takes care of his body, it’s reasonable to think he has three high-level seasons left in the tank.
If that’s the case, Veach and Head Coach, Andy Reid, have an easy decision to make. If not, it’s possible Jones could follow Tyreek Hill out the door via trade. That would mean after the 2023 season, his last in Kansas City, Veach would be forced to tag Jones, then deal him sometime before the 2024 NFL Draft.
I think that’s highly unlikely but, in the NFL, cash generally settles all outcomes. Jones is in a perfect position to cash in again on another long-term deal. The Chiefs need to get something done, if they are going to add another veteran defender, such as Carlos Dunlop, in time to be impactful in week one. Right now, Veach has no cap space until he can extend Jones.
Though KC’s roster is mostly set, and I’m sure the Chiefs knew that Omenihu was going to start the season suspended, they’ll find the room to get another pass rusher.
Come Sunday when the Chiefs kick off the pre-season slate against the New Orleans Saints, and Chris Jones is not on the sidelines with his teammates, then fans can start to wonder how this might end for the team’s best defender.