On Tuesday, Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach launched another thunderbolt from his office at One Arrowhead Drive, signing defensive tackle Chris Jones to a four-year contract worth $85 million.
Here are three things we learned from the deal:
1. Sometimes, things are not as they seem
Remember when we were convinced that because the Chiefs and Jones hadn’t talked since he was franchise-tagged in March, the Chiefs fully intended for Jones to play on the tag in 2020 — and then tag and trade him in 2021?
In this business, we carefully monitor (and report) what players, coaches and executives say about upcoming contracts. We know that everyone involved will do their best not to show us the cards they hold — and maybe even mislead us a little — so we’ve learned to put more stock in what teams (and players) actually do, rather than what they might say.
The Chiefs kept saying that they were continuing to talk to Jones’ representatives. Most reporters said their sources were telling them the same thing. But then in late May, a reporter went against the grain, saying the Chiefs hadn’t talked to Jones’ camp ever since the team had given him his franchise tender. Again — focusing on what teams do instead of what they say — it was easy to conclude the Chiefs were just trying to get another season of production for the cheapest possible price.
It could have been that the Chiefs were trying to mislead us a little — either with their own statements or with the information they were giving to reporters. It’s also possible that when NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport confidently reported that the two camps hadn’t been speaking since March, he was being fed misleading information from Jones’ camp.
But the third possibility is that everything that the Chiefs said — and everything that was reported — was true. It’s possible that the two sides were talking — right up to the point the franchise tag was applied, when they agreed the tag would simply be a placeholder until Patrick Mahomes’ contract was in place. Even Jones’ well-publicized threat not to play on the tag could have simply been a reminder to the Chiefs that they had better keep their word. With millions of dollars at stake, such a reminder would have been understandable.
None of this means we should stop paying attention to what players, coaches and executives say — or to what reliable reporters tell us about what’s going on. It’s merely a reminder there are always many ways to interpret what we know.
And that’s what makes it fun.
2. Chris Jones is a patient man
When this particular drama began at the end of the 2018 season — when the Chiefs let us know that Jones was among their top priorities — many things stood in the way of Jones getting paid. Before last season began, the distraction of the controversy surrounding Tyreek Hill, the trade for Frank Clark and the signing of Tyrann Mathieu all served as obstacles between the Chiefs and a new contract for Jones.
In this offseason — while the team continued to maintain that signing Jones was still a priority — there was little concrete evidence of movement toward a contract. That must have been frustrating for Jones. But he knew — just as everyone else did — that Mahomes’ contract had to take precedence. Even right after the team had given him a franchise tender — something that might have made any other player of Jones’ stature very angry — he took a pretty even strain.
“It’s like a mix of emotions,” he told Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd, “because you figure [that] after four years, [doing] everything the right way — within the team way — you try to stay under the line, out of trouble, and be a good citizen for the team and for the city. [Then] you expect to be rewarded. So when you’re hit with a franchise tag, it can go different ways. You can feel like they’re not valuing you — that they’re not valuing what you can bring to the table. Or you can look at it as giving them time to get their horses in a cage and get something together.”
In the end, making Jones’ deal a reality required the Chiefs to do everything in a specific order. Jones displayed the patience to accept that — and his forbearance has now been rewarded with a contract that gives him mostly everything he wanted.
3. Brett Veach can always surprise you
If you had “Chris Jones signs a long-term contract with no signing bonus” on your offseason bingo card, please raise your hand.
Now put your hand down, OK? Everyone knows that wasn’t on your bingo card.
The Chiefs general manager continues to make gutsy moves that take us by surprise. Just a week ago, he signed a franchise quarterback to a record-setting $503 million contract with a signing bonus of just $10 million — another move that no one had on their card — but even then, we expected that after that unusual deal, Veach would return to more familiar territory.
So much for that idea.
Mike Florio of NBCSports’ “Pro Football Talk” has now reported that Jones will receive a salary of $16.2 million in 2020 — increasing his current cap hit by just $100,000 — followed by $21.5 million in 2021, $22.4 million in 2022 and $20 million in 2023. That’s the very definition of a “pay as you go” contract.
But let’s not forget that Veach is making a big gamble with this deal. The salary-cap site Spotrac currently calculates that in 2021, the Chiefs have $174.9 million in contract obligations for 52 players — not including Jones — on the books. Jones’ reported 2021 salary will bring that to $196.4 million, which does not include the salaries of the unsigned 2020 rookies — or even the 2021 rookies.
In most future years, this wouldn’t be a big problem; we’d expect the cap figure to the rise 5-10% from its current level of $198.2 million. That, however, might not be the case in 2021; it’s distinctly possible the cap figure could be lower.
But if the Chiefs can navigate their 2021 cap situation, Jones will be a bargain. Like I pointed out after the Mahomes contract was signed, Veach has no fear.
Let’s hope he doesn’t need any.
We reacted on the Arrowhead Pride podcast network shortly after the Jones news broke. Listen to our commentary below: