Kansas City Chiefs general manager called free agent-to-be Chris Jones a “priority” last Friday on the team’s in-house podcast network; it was more of the same at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
“It’s certainly a priority for us,” reaffirmed Veach. “Sometimes, these things take some time to work through... The franchise tag is something that we have the ability to use. We’d certainly like to see if we could work something out with him, and I think the tandem of Chris Jones and Frank Clark is something that any team would want, and we’re going work hard to see if we can get that done.”
The Chiefs traded for defensive end Frank Clark last offseason, signing him to a five-year deal worth $104 million (including $62.3 million guaranteed and $43.8 million fully guaranteed). As of this writing, Clark is due to make a $17 million base salary in 2020 — the highest on the team by $3.25 million (Patrick Mahomes’ contract has yet to be extended). Clark’s $5.2 million prorated bonus for 2020 is included in his $22.2 million 2020 cap hit.
The last time the Chiefs were in negotiations with Jones, it was reported he was seeking about $20 million per year. After leading the Chiefs in regular-season sacks (9.0) for the second-straight year, it is worth wondering if that number has increased.
If it was up to Clark, Jones’ compensation would look at least somewhat similar to his own.
But Clark doesn’t draw up the contracts. The man who does sounded optimistic that something could be worked out in order to afford both players under the cap.
“Going back to my personnel staff, I also have a great cap staff — Brandt Tillis and Chris Shea do a tremendous job,” said Veach. “It’s challenging, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And I think just working through the breakdowns and the dispersals and looking forward — a lot of this, we have to wait with the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and see how that looks. It’s always a challenge, but I think when you have guys as talented as Chris and these other players, you’re going to turn over every scenario and just see what exactly can be done. So it’s a challenge, but it’s not impossible.”
As Veach mentioned, the entire league is waiting on a new CBA, which could be the first chip to fall in a “flurry” of league-wide roster moves. A scenario exists where the cap balloons enough in the new CBA for Veach and the Chiefs to comfortably afford Clark, Jones and an extension for Mahomes all under the cap.
If the Chiefs opted to use the tag before March 12, the league’s new deadline, Jones could make approximately $16.272 million in 2020, according to CBS Sports cap expert Joel Corry. Even though that number would pale in comparison to Clark’s in 2020, Jones has made a total of $3.17 million in his career, according to Over the Cap. The 2018 second-team All-Pro sitting out a season seems unlikely.
Still, the unchanging best-case scenario for both sides would be to come to an agreement on a new deal.
“[Contract talks] have been ongoing, and we actually have a meeting scheduled up here in the next couple days,” said Veach. “We had dialogue last offseason. We had dialogue prior to the season starting. Chris did a great job of blocking all that and really just tackling the season. He handled it like a true pro. Now we have the opportunity once this cycle comes back around to pick up where those conversations left off, and hopefully, we can make some headway and get something done.”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that he had been in contact with Jones, but the two don’t discuss his contract. During Super Bowl week, Jones was forthcoming in his desire to remain with the Chiefs.
To potentially make that happen, Veach added that there has been no shortage of communication when it comes to where each side stands.
“It’s meaningful,” said Veach. “All dialogue is good dialogue, and I think just being up front — where we are as an organization and what are expectations are in regards to what Chris and his camp and what their expectations are. The last thing you want is for something to go awry because there just wasn’t enough communication, so you can’t have enough dialogue — and like I said, [Chris’ representatives] have been very open and honest with us, and we feel we have handled this situation in a very similar fashion. Again, we’re looking forward to sitting down with his agents this week and continuing to pick up on the dialogue and where it left off.”
Since Jones was drafted by the Chiefs in the second round of 2016 NFL Draft, he has led the Chiefs with 33.0 sacks and 72 quarterback hits. The two players behind Jones — Dee Ford (25.0 sacks, 53 QB hits) and Justin Houston (22.5 sacks and 38 QB hits) — are no longer with the club.
Veach has maintained the Chiefs don’t want that future for Jones.
“I would say it would be a priority for us to make that happen,” he said. “And what transpires in the next few weeks or months is to be determined, but certainly our goal and intent is to keep Chris Jones in Kansas City.”