Chris Jones, Chiefs front office must overcome obstacles to reach contract extension
The Kansas City Chiefs appear to in the midst of a contract struggle with 2018 sack leader Chris Jones.
Jones did not show up to mandatory minicamp and is subject to fines for missing out the final practices until the end of July. The Chiefs appear to be dragging their feet on a contract extension for Jones, despite the team revealing their intentions to sign him to a contract extension as early as the 2018 season. So what gives?
Jones, like any other player, is trying to maximize his value and get the biggest contract possible. This isn’t new, it’s just the way football contracts work. The market is set by the last player to sign the best deal, and the next player to sign gets a deal that’s just a bit sweeter. Jones is also coming off of the best season of his young NFL career and wants to capitalize. He should absolutely seek to get the most money possible for his services, but the Chiefs should also look to get the best deal possible. Don’t forget, they have a Patrick Mahomes contract on the horizon.
Brett Veach is likely looking at the franchise tag number in 2020 as a starting point for any long term deal with Jones. In 2019 the franchise tag number for a defensive tackle was $15.2 million. That number will go up in 2020 commensurate to the increase in the NFL’s salary cap, but it will still be well short of the $20 million annually that Jones is seeking. There’s certainly ways to save and come to an agreement on that first year amount, but that could be a sticking point in negotiations.
Another possible sticking point could be the position that Jones is playing in 2019. Here is Andy Reid on Jones’ role in a 4-3 defense from mid-April:
“The one neat thing that Chris (Jones) did last year was move around a little bit, which I think will help him, because he can play outside, or he can play inside. I think he is going to be ok there. It was 70 or 75 percent of the time he was asked to do that four-man front. I think he will be ok.”
Perhaps Jones wants to get paid more like an edge rusher and is hung up on the money that the Chiefs paid out to his new teammate Frank Clark. The franchise tag number for a defensive end in 2020 will be much closer to $20 million. If that is the case, it could be a significant barrier in contract negotiations.
Additionally, there is a new synergy between the Chiefs’ front office and the new defensive coaching staff. Steve Spagnuolo has raved about the communication between his staff and Veach’s people since he’s arrived. It’s had a huge impact on the players and defense the Chiefs have built. It’d stand to reason that Spagnuolo wants a chance to work with Jones before Veach makes a long-term financial commitment, even if it’s just to see how he handles himself in practice and the classroom.
Jones obviously wants to stay away from practice without putting ink to paper on a new deal. Any activity with the team could potentially risk injury and jeopardize a contract extension with the Chiefs or on the open market. However, getting in the building and working with Spagnuolo could potentially be the best way to get a contract extension done. It’s a bit of a catch-22 for Jones.
The Chiefs and Jones have been talking an extension for some time. At the end of March the Chiefs had still engaged in a positive and improving discourse with Jones’ representation. Even though the two parties are seemingly at an impasse in contract negotiations, they’re still ongoing, and proximity has nothing to do with whether the Chiefs will continue to negotiate with Jones. The team obviously would prefer Jones be in the building for mandatory minicamp, but really this isn’t a true holdout situation until he starts missing training camp, which begins at the end of July.
One thing to note is that Jones has also been spending a significant part of the offseason training with former Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell. Of course, Bell held out for the entire 2018 season when his team applied the franchise tag. It’s not clear if Bell has been in his ear about that situation, but I can’t imagine that is a comforting thought to the Chiefs. It might take the franchise tag off the table all-together for Jones and put some extra pressure on the Chiefs to get a deal done before the start of the season.