Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones is set to enter the final year of his four-year, $80 million contract, and he’s made it clear how important securing his next deal is with his actions. He skipped the defending Super Bowl champion’s mandatory minicamp this offseason, did not report to training camp in the summer, and now will miss Kansas City’s Week 1 matchup with the Detroit Lions, per NFL Media.
While Jones will not play Thursday night, he claimed Wednesday prior to a Chiefs philanthropic event that he could suit up if a deal got done in the eleventh hour.
“If a deal gets done, I can be out there tomorrow,” Jones said, via The Athletic. “I can’t really talk about it. Hopefully, we can get something worked out.”
Jones’ holdout has become a major storyline around the NFL, but the All-Pro defender went out of his way to say his intent was not to be a distraction.
“It’s always been my goal to be a Kansas City Chief for life,” Jones said Wednesday, via Aaron Ladd of KSHB 41. “I could’ve done a hold-in but that would’ve been a distraction. Opinions are like buttholes. Everyone’s got one and they all stink. … You can’t make everyone happy. … I’m just asking for a raise.”
The Athletic previously reported that Jones is looking for a contract that will pay him $30 million annually. His current contract’s average-per-year value of $20 million currently ranks as the ninth-highest among defensive tackles after extensions were signed this offseason by Quinnen Williams of the Jets (four years, $96 million), Jeffery Simmons of the Titans (four years, $94 million), Daron Payne of the Commanders (four years, $90 million), Dexter Lawrence of the Giants (four years, $90 million), and Javon Hargrave of the 49ers (four years, $84 million).
Last offseason, Kansas City was in a similar spot as All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill wanted a new deal after watching his position’s market skyrocket around the league. They ended up trading him to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for five draft picks. However, general manager Brett Veach said the team is operating differently in negotiations with Jones.
“You have to keep in mind that when we did make that move with Tyreek, one of the determining factors was because there was an expected Chris Jones deal,” Veach said. “And so, to do Tyreek there was a concern of ‘Would we be able to do Chris?’ So that was a moment of time, and it was before the draft, that we hit the reset button. We’re like, ‘You know, it’s really hard to trade a player the magnitude of Tyreek Hill. But we’re following that up with someone just as significant and on the defensive side.
Veach made his bottom line clear at the time: he wants Jones to play his entire career with the Chiefs.
“I think for all parties, I think the best resolution would be for him to end his career as a Chiefs, get that financial security and for us do what we had set out to do, and that’s to work through last offseason with this offseason in mind and get some young guys, which we did that, and then focus on this year and getting Chris done,” Veach said. “Hopefully, we get his resolved, but we have no intentions of making a trade.”
Earlier this offseason, the four-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion declared he’s coming for his first Defensive Player of the Year award, definitively stating he’s going to be the NFL’s top defender in 2023.
Jones, 29, finished third in DPOY voting last season behind San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, who led the NFL in sacks with 18.5 and co-led the league in quarterback pressures with 90, and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, who also co-led the league in quarterback pressures with 90. Jones tied his career high in sacks with 15.5, the fourth most in the league, while ranking fifth in quarterback pressures with 77 last season.
In terms of the deal Jones is reportedly looking for, three-time DPOY winner and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s three-year, $95 million contract tops the interior defensive line market in both total value and average per year ($31.6 million). That appears to be the range that Jones is eyeing, as he is also among the league’s best defensive linemen.
Kansas City currently ranks last in the NFL in cap space available for 2023 ($598,038), according to OverTheCap.com, but the Chiefs are projected to have $52.1 million in cap room available in the 2024 offseason, the 11th-most in the entire league.
The longer this holdout goes, however, the longer it would seem a trade is on the table. If the Chiefs ultimately decide they cannot meet Jones’ demands and explore a trade, as they once did with Tyreek Hill, there should be suitors. Here are three particularly logical ones for the Pro Bowl defensive lineman:
After drafting Will Anderson Jr., the Texans have at least one building block for new coach DeMeco Ryans’ defensive line. But Jones’ interior presence would take Houston’s front to another level, and they’ve got the long-term cap space — a projected $90+ million in both 2024 and 2025 — to afford paying Jones like the elite starter he is.
General manager Ryan Poles already spent lots on defensive upgrades this offseason, notably at linebacker. But if the focus really is on improving coach Matt Eberflus’ preferred side of the ball, you can’t do much better than Jones, whose ability to line up at tackle and end would instantly diversify their front. With $90.6M of available space in 2024, they’ve got money to spare.
The Lions did so much work upgrading their secondary this offseason that coach Dan Campbell is now trying to slow the “hype train” that surrounds Detroit. But what about some big-time help for Aidan Hutchinson in the trenches? Jones is the kind of difference-maker who’d be a premium cherry on top of an improved “D.” And the Lions have a decent amount of cap space left in both 2023 ($19.4M), 2024 ($57.7M) and beyond.