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Chris Jones: getting sacks, winning championship rings and having fun

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His four-year contract in place, the Chiefs defensive tackle has turned his attention to his lofty goals.

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Less than two months ago, on the last Friday of May, an update on the talks between the Kansas City Chiefs and Chris Jones came down from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. It was not good.

“The reason ‘not much traction’ has been made on contract talks is because no negotiations or discussions have occurred since the tag,” Rapoport tweeted. “Jones has not participated and will continue to not participate in any OTAs — virtual or otherwise.”

The chance that Jones would wear Chiefs colors again had never felt slimmer. Rapoport never gets it wrong — and it seemed the Chiefs and Jones finally had enough of each other.

But it just wasn’t the case, as we know now. The Chiefs just needed time to work through all of the obstacles of the most unique and trying offseason of all time.

“One of the things that kind of got taken the wrong way was our commitment and appreciation for Chris Jones — how the Chiefs feel and this and that,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said via Zoom conference call, as the Chiefs introduced Jones after he signed a four-year contract extension to return to Kansas City. “The whole time, Chris and his agents knew how much we loved him, and we were absolutely going to do everything we could to keep him here... just because there wasn’t a lot of talking. The reason why there wasn’t talking is because everyone — both sides — everyone needed more information. The reality of it is we certainly love Chris and want him here and the agents believed in us and we were able to get this done through hard work and just a lot of trust and dialogue.”

Before the Chiefs could address Jones, they needed to complete the richest contract in the history of sports — a 12-year total contract for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. And as we learned Monday, the $503 million man was kind enough to leave money on the table.

They also needed to be as sure as they could possibly be about next year’s cap, which is still unknown to this day thanks to what Veach described as the ultimate curveball — the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We don’t know where the cap’s going to be, but we have to have plans ready in place for whether it grows, stays the same, it dips, at what levels, what we need to do, what moves that we have to make,” Veach assured fans as he spoke to the media. “We have a plan and we’ll be able to go in some different areas, but once we got to a level where we felt comfortable that over the next few years that we have enough game-planning in place to protect ourselves, then we felt good.

“The whole time, we felt confident that something would get done. We waited for as much information as we could get and then at a certain point, once we felt pretty good about our setup for the short and long-term, we were able to pull the trigger.”

NFL Combine - Day 1

That number was up-to $85 million over four years, including practically $60 million guaranteed. It turned out Veach and the Chiefs meant what they said at the Scouting Combine in February — that Jones was indeed a “priority.”

“This is so well deserved,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “He’s done everything that he’s needed to do to become a top defensive tackle in the National Football League. He probably could be the same thing at defensive end on the outside as he is on the inside — he’s very talented. He brings a great personality to our football team.

“Nothing’s impossible in his mind, and that’s the way he goes about it. I’ve been proud of the commitment that he’s given to the organization and how he’s handled himself in the weight room, in the classroom, on the field and in the community. He’s been tremendous.”

The Chiefs traded back and selected Jones out of Mississippi State in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft after trading back on night one. On Monday, Jones said the first thing he did after signing his new contract was call his grandmother.

NFL Draft - Red Carpet Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images

“We actually talked about me sleeping on our living room couch,” he described. “We put it in the dining room and got a new living room set, and that was my bed for my end of my junior year and my senior of high school, I slept on that couch... you just go back and look at those times and reminisce and it makes you really grateful for this.”

Jones has led the Chiefs in sacks in back-to-back seasons, registering 15.5 sacks in 2018 and 9.0 in 2019. He has 33.0 total sacks since entering the league in 2016, second for defensive tackles (only to the Los Angeles RamsAaron Donald) during that span.

Understandably, Jones was ready for a new contract after the 15.5-sack season, but his representation — the Katz Brothers — and the Chiefs could not come to an agreement. Rather than paying Jones last offseason, Veach traded for Frank Clark and paid him instead.

“We felt going into last offseason, losing Justin Houston and Dee Ford, we had to add another elite playmaker to go along with Chris and we did that,” Veach said. “So we trade a pick, we get Frank, and we get Frank a contract. We want to do something with Chris. We can’t get it done. But there was always communication that we’ll get something. Just be patient. It would have been very easy for Chris to show up late or to complain but Chris was dedicated to this team. He wanted to win a Super Bowl. And the really cool thing — coach and I talk about it all the time — how was Chris going to handle the first few weeks of practice with Frank and being a little disappointed and within a few days, I remember being at training camp last year and seeing Frank and Chris just hit it off.”

“Once I appeared in camp, I told my agents and Veach, there’s no contract talks,” Jones, who sat out last year’s OTAs, said. “Let’s just focus on football and finish out this year.”

Jones’ attitude paid off.

“I always wanted to stay with the Kansas City Chiefs,” Jones said. “It’s not about being the highest-paid player. It’s about getting what you deserve and what you think fits you. I think me and the Chiefs came to an agreement on a certain number that we both could agree to, and we made it happen. But until then, patience with the organization and understanding that no matter what, you determine your own destiny.”

In the end — the Chiefs truly did value everything he is capable of.

“He’s unblockable,” Veach said, explaining that you just can’t find players like Jones in the draft. “As an interior pass rusher, with his size, his athleticism, his quickness, it takes two guys to block him. All you have to do is turn the Super Bowl on and see what he did in the Super Bowl against a very good 49ers team. When this guy goes, you can’t block him, you have to put two bodies on him. He’s a young guy and we certainly feel he’s just scratching the surface. He’s going to continue to get better and better and better and Chris has stated when we announced via Twitter that we signed him that his goals were to be defensive player of the year and believe me.

“Talent-wise, there’s no stopping him. So if he can stay healthy and just keep on this upward trajectory, there’s no doubt in my mind he has all the tools needed to do that.”

Jones believes those words wholeheartedly — his intrinsic motivation to be one of the greatest defensive players of all time transcends his finances.

Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

“For me, it’s nothing changed,” he said. “It’s all about being the best I can be. It’s all about being the sack leader, winning the defensive player of the year. You know, I’m always pushing myself to new heights. It’s one of the checkmarks on my journey. This is not the end of my journey; this is just the beginning. Thankful I’m able to spend it with the Chiefs, build a dynasty and create something special.

“For me, it’s about having a Hall of Fame career, getting a gold jacket. Honestly, if somebody told me you could choose $20 million or 20 sacks, I’d choose the sacks every day. That’s just where my mind and where my heart is at. Getting sacks, winning championship rings and having fun. Enjoying the process. And that’s where I’m at right now.

“The money — it’s good to be financially stable to where I can get my kids and my family things I wasn’t fortunate enough to have when I was coming up. But for me, the game is bigger than money. It’s my passion. It’s what I love to do. I want to get the gold jacket.”