Editor’s note: A previous version of this post credited an incorrect source with the Jones report. We have since corrected the post and apologize for the error.
Appearing on the network's flagship “SportsCenter” telecast on Saturday, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said that the Kansas City Chiefs are talking with their defensive tackle Chris Jones.
“I’m told the Chiefs and Jones have begun talking,” said Fowler, “which is a big victory because it’s been quiet for months on that front; they’ve really had no communication. They’ve at least started negotiating. The Chiefs got the Patrick Mahomes deal done. They’d like to move on to Jones, who is considered a top-three defensive tackle, but that’s going to cost them well over $20 million. It’s just unclear how far they’re willing to go at this point, but they want to keep one of their best players.”
The team placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on Jones in March, which was the latest concrete move in an on-and-off contract negotiation that's been going on ever since the end of the 2018 season.
The two sides have until July 15 — this coming Wednesday — to come to terms on a long-term deal. Without a new Chiefs contract, Jones will have to play the 2020 season on the $16.1 million salary he’d receive on the franchise tag — if he decides to play at all.
The Chiefs would like to get a deal done in order to get some desperately-needed salary cap relief. A new deal with Jones — even at an average salary above $20 million per year — could easily be structured to reduce Jones’ 2020 cap hit in half. By our calculations, once the Chiefs sign their drafted rookies — none of whom have yet signed their deals — they’ll have only $1.8 million in cap space remaining; they’ll certainly want to have more wiggle room going into the 2020 season.
In all, 14 NFL players were placed on franchise or transition tags. Even though about half of tagged players will generally sign long-term deals before the midsummer deadline, none of them have yet reached agreement with their teams. Jones is just one of four who hasn’t yet signed his franchise tender, which keeps his option for a new deal open.
We’ll keep you posted.