The Kansas City Chiefs won’t negotiate a contract with defensive lineman Chris Jones until he returns to the team, according to a new report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Jones was not at mandatory minicamp Tuesday and has not been present at any offseason workouts since the offseason program began on April 15.
The difference now is the workouts are mandatory and those absent are subject to a fine.
RAPOPORT: “He has stayed away for OTAs — that’s voluntary — no fines associated with that, but not present, I’m told, for mandatory minicamp, so Chris Jones, one of the best players on a Chiefs defense that they would really like to improve this year, he is not at mandatory minicamp, so he is going to get fined. He would like a new deal — looking for something in the $20 million per year range but my understanding is the Chiefs are not going to negotiate with him until he’s present, and he is not present right now.”
The fact that Jones wants somewhere in the “$20 million per year range” should come as no surprise. Jones is coming off the best season of his career in 2018, having compiled a team-leading 15.5 sacks, 29 quarterback hits, 40 tackles (35 solo), five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one interception for a touchdown.
Two fellow Chiefs defenders—cornerback Kendall Fuller and linebacker Anthony Hitchens—were made available to the media after practice Tuesday and were asked about Jones and the challenge he will be facing having missed all offseason workouts.
“He’ll go through the same phase as us,” Fuller said. “He’ll get better at it. Just like, when we hit training camp, we’re still going to have to get better at it. Everybody’s going to start from day one and once we hit day one, we’ll go to day two, and we’ll start with the basics from everybody else’s stance.”
“He’s a smart guy,” Hitchens added. “I’m not going to get into too much with Chris and whatnot — but he’s a smart guy and training camp is four or five weeks. He should be able to get it down by then, but the guys that’s here, we’re just going to keep building and just become a better football team.”
As of January, the Chiefs viewed Jones’ extension as an offseason priority. The fresh news on the matter today is that he is not present now and the Chiefs obviously want him to be. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid last spoke about Jones on May 23.
“I haven’t talked to him,” Reid said. “We don’t get into that (Jones’ attendance). We just go. You’re here, you get better. You’re not, you don’t.”
I’m not sure the situation is more complicated than this: Jones wants a new contract—one he certainly deserves given his ‘18 production—and his representation is recommending he stay away to avoid injury and provide him with some leverage. Through the channels of the national media, the Chiefs are telling Jones that if he wants a new contract, he has to be with the club.
It’s a classic and expected stalemate, one I believe the Chiefs and Jones will want to be solved by the time training camp begins.
As it stands, Jones is due to make a $1.19 million base salary in 2019 (the final year of his contract), according to Over the Cap. Over the Cap also estimates the Chiefs currently have $24.33 million in cap room for 2019.