Run it back, indeed.
It has been reported that the Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to a new, four-year contract with star defensive tackle Chris Jones. The All-Pro pass rusher will be under contract through the 2023 season — the same length as his teammate, defensive end Frank Clark.
The reality of those two playing together for an extended period of time seemed like a pipe dream not too long ago. When the Chiefs traded for and signed Clark to the five-year, $105 million deal last offseason, it felt like the team had chosen Clark over Jones for the long-term. Now, the two defensive linemen will be rushing alongside each other for up to four more years.
The longevity of both contracts will give Jones and Clark the opportunity to become the next great Chiefs pass rush duo.
There have been some awesome tandems rushing the quarterback in Kansas City — but the great ones played at a high level together for more than a season or two. Edge rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston combined for 22 sacks in 2018 but never came close to that total in any other year together. Defensive ends Tamba Hali and Jared Allen put up 38.5 sacks in the only two seasons they were together in Kansas City.
There are only two truly great pass rush duos in the history of the Chiefs — and they happen to be the top four all-time sack leaders for the franchise.
Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith
Seasons spent as teammates: 8 (1989-1996)
Average combined sacks per season: 26
Average combined forced fumbles per season: 8.5
Seasons with eight or more sacks each: 6
Safeties forced: 3 (all by Thomas)
Ranks for all-time sack leader in team history: Thomas (1st), Smith (3rd)
Tamba Hali and Justin Houston
Seasons spent as teammates: 6 (2011-2016)
Average combined sacks per season: 18
Average combined forced fumbles per season: 4
Seasons with eight or more sacks each: 2
Safeties forced: 2 (one by each)
Ranks for all-time sack leader in team history: Hali (2nd), Houston (4th)
Chris Jones and Frank Clark
Jones and Clark have only spent one season together — but they fit a few years worth of memories into their first campaign. The duo combined for 17 sacks and four forced fumbles in the regular season while dealing with injuries, then made major impacts in the three-game postseason run. Clark totaled five playoff sacks while Jones made multiple key plays in the Super Bowl victory.
The successful year came even when both had obstacles to overcome. Jones held out of voluntary workouts in the offseason and then was injured in Week 5, while Clark dealt with a spinal nerve issue that hampered him throughout the first half of the season.
The duo was still able to top eight sacks each while only playing in 12 regular-season games together. If they are able to stay healthy together in the future, they have a chance to join the aforementioned pairs in the tier of elite pass rush duos in team history. Their age certainly doesn’t hurt their chances.
Jones will be 26 this season and will be 29 in the last year of his new deal. Clark turned 27 this summer, and he will be 30 for the 2023 season. While the two have already had prolific seasons, their youth allows their prime performance to continue. It’s likely that we haven’t seen the best of Clark in a Chiefs uniform — and Jones’ athleticism shouldn’t be going away in his late 20s.
Plus, it’s important to remember how new everything was to the defensive unit last season. Jones’ offseason holdout prevented him from learning defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s philosophy for most of the summer — while Clark was brand new to both Spagnuolo and the organization. The more both players get comfortable with the scheme, the more creativity Spagnuolo can use to put them in positions to pressure and sack the quarterback.
One intangible reason that they can become a memorable duo is their contrasting personalities. Clark has established himself as someone who leads his unit by example and by challenging his teammates. Jones’ fun-loving, enthusiastic personality gives his teammates an energy source to feed off and excites the crowd. The two together can be the best of both types of leadership styles.
Ultimately, the two pass rushers can become an all-time duo because they are both supremely talented. Both have rightfully earned over $20 million per season — and deserve to be considered among the NFL’s elite at their positions. There’s no reason to believe their play will drop off in the near future.
Opposing NFL quarterbacks: Sorry in advance for having to throw with these two coming after you for the next four seasons.