If the Kansas City Chiefs hadn’t handed Chris Jones a four-year, $80 million contract, let him play on the tag and walk a year later, they would have survived any backlash or comments about being cheap or not taking care of their own. A decision to let the clock run out on the trade deadline would still be on the back of Patrick Mahomes agreeing to the largest contract in sports history with a valuation over $500 million.
Instead, Kansas City was able to come to an agreement with Jones that makes sense for both sides. Jones will get the respect of being a $20 million average-per-year player, and the Chiefs have maintained flexibility. In the past, general manager Brett Veach has paid players outside the organization, hitting on almost all of them. This offseason, he turned to taking care of the Chiefs’ own with both Mahomes and Jones committed long term.
The commitment to Jones is just another move that is likely to draw players and fans alike to what is happening in Kansas City. The spotlight is on this organization as the reigning world champions with the world’s best player, who they just happened to lock up for longer than “Cheers” ran on TV. What the Chiefs have done with that visibility is increase it — showing the rest of the NFL that Kansas City is the place to be.
The draw of Mahomes playing in Kansas City was already enough for some players to strongly consider an offer from the Chiefs — especially players chasing a ring toward the end of their career. But now the Chiefs have worked hard to keep two of their own a year removed from investing heavily in a couple of change agents on defense. Homegrown players and free agents alike are raving about the culture in Kansas City and want to continue to be part of something special.
The Chiefs have built up goodwill in every move they’ve made recently. Mahomes has given the organization ultimate trust and belief in what has been built by Andy Reid and Veach — including a structure to allow for a team to be built around him. Jones had to be willing to be creative with the structure of his deal in order to stick — which he accommodated by taking no signing bonus on his deal. That both players were so open to unique structure is a testament to the culture; players willing to work to be here. That’s not changing any time soon.
The Chiefs have the right players in the locker room and some with a strong influence on the rest of the league, such as Mahomes and safety Tyrann Mathieu. They are key cogs in building the culture but are also so revered that people outside the organization listen when they speak. They are well connected and widely respected — and will be pivotal as players gather information about what it’s like to play in Kansas City.
It may not manifest itself immediately — and you never know when it will — but how the Chiefs have approached key decisions will pay dividends somewhere in the future. Whether it is with agents helping steer undrafted free agents to Kansas City or if the Chiefs’ actions are a tie-breaker for a free agent, the way the organization has very visibly treated their players will not be forgotten. There is no player leaving Kansas City disgruntled this year — the Super Bowl ring surely helps.
As Reid likes to say in post-game press conferences, it all starts with him. This organization has been transformed from the ground up since he joined the team in 2013. His earnest, consistent approach for the entirety of his career has rewarded him with a chance to surround himself with special talent to build around a generational quarterback. He’s earned it — and he’s done it on the back of treating his players well. That permeates throughout the building and has bred an unmatched culture.
The NFL is a cold business and other teams are lauded for the frigid nature in which they operate. The Chiefs haven’t been that in 2020. They’ve been aggressive in their negotiations and yet to strikeout. There are going to be less popular decisions ahead — especially when the bill comes due on Mahomes and Jones — but the rewards of what has been built have already led to one championship and a window to claim more.
The AP Laboratory
We dove deep into the Chris Jones signing and more on the latest edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory.