The clock is ticking.
The Kansas City Chiefs have until July 15 to sign star defensive tackle Chris Jones to a long-term deal. If they two sides can’t come to terms, Jones has two choices: sign the franchise tender the Chiefs gave him at the beginning of the league year and play the 2020 season for $16.1 million — or refuse to sign the tag and hold out.
If they can’t reach an agreement with Jones, the Chiefs would also have another option: rescind the franchise tag. That would make immediately make Jones a free agent — and give the Chiefs that same $16.1 million in cap relief.
But at this point, that option comes with a significant disadvantage: Jones’ loss in free agency would not make the Chiefs eligible for a compensatory draft pick in 2021. This is because when Jones is signed to another team — as would almost certainly happen — that signing would occur after the first Monday following the NFL draft. Free agent signings made after that date are excluded from the compensatory picks formula.
(On Monday, I wrote that the Chiefs could get as much as a third-round comp pick for Jones if they rescinded his franchise tag. A more careful reading of the the league’s newly-signed Collective Bargaining Agreement revealed otherwise. I apologize for the error).
So if July 15 passes without a deal — and the Chiefs are not comfortable having Jones play at his tag salary in 2020 — that would leave them just one option: trading Jones to another team.
The Seahawks have completely restocked their defensive end group, with multiple options at both LEO and 5-tech on early downs, passing downs, and as situational rushers. In the short-term, Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin will provide a boost as bona fide producers, with Rasheem Green developing into a reliable rotational player, as well. In the long-term, Green, L.J. Collier, Darrell Taylor, and Alton Robinson could potentially make up the core of both ends.
The roster construction, in 2020 and beyond, suggests a high-impact addition would be better served in the interior of the defensive line than on the edge.
Field Gulls writer Alistair Corp then notes that Jones’ performances against NFC West opponents — which the Seahawks play twice a year — would make him an ideal fit. And Corp even has an idea what Seattle could give to get Jones.
The best-case scenario in a trade, for Seattle, would be to put together a package that includes Jarran Reed. Though the Seahawks do need to add a defensive tackle either way, Reed is too expensive to be a part-time player. The Chiefs could be interested in Reed for a few reasons, too: he’s an easy—if not lesser—replacement for Jones, he has previous production playing with Frank Clark, and Andy Reid has never hesitated to take on players with red flags off the field. However, Reed’s inclusion in any trade would be unlikely—his departure would leave Seattle with $5 million in dead cap hits in 2020 and ‘21. A more likely package would be made up entirely of picks, headlined by the team’s 2021 first-round selection.
Corp’s article raised some eyebrows among Chiefs fans — some of whom have thought all along that the Chiefs would be better-served to trade Jones.
But it’s important to note that NFL trades in June or July are pretty rare. The last time two teams made a deal for an impact player during the those months was in 2011, when the Arizona Cardinals sent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Significantly, that year also had an abbreviated offseason because of a four-month labor dispute that kept teams from their normal offseason activities until late July. But the Cardinals were desperate for quarterback help in 2011; in the previous season, Derek Anderson and three other quarterbacks had combined for a passer rating of just 60.5. As much as the Seahawks might like Jones, they’re probably not that desperate to acquire him.
So while it’s not unreasonable to think that the unique circumstances of the 2020 offseason might make a June or July trade more likely, it’s still probably not something you should take to the bank.
In the end, the likelihood of a trade will probably depend on the Chiefs’ willingness to pay Jones $16.1 million for the coming season. If the report that the two sides haven’t been negotiating is true, that could suggest the Chiefs are content to let it ride. But if they are talking — and Jones opts to hold out without a new deal — the Chiefs could decide to make an August trade for whatever they can get.