Easily the biggest remaining offseason question for the Kansas City Chiefs is whether they will reach a contract extension with star defensive tackle Chris Jones. Coming off of 15.5 sacks in 2023, the veteran now enters the final season of the four-year contract he signed in 2020.
Jones was absent for the Chiefs’ entire offseason program — and will likely be fined after not reporting for mandatory minicamp. The face of Kansas City’s defense further set off alarms by not attending last week’s Super Bowl ring ceremony — though he later claimed to have been sick.
On Wednesday, former NFL agent — and current salary cap analyst for CBS Sports — Joel Corry explained what are likely the lingering issues in talks.
Corry appears to agree with wide speculation that continued talks between fellow defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and the New York Jets may be complicating Jones’ efforts to settle on a fair number as the league’s second highest paid interior pass rusher behind Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald.
Jones was hopeful that the young defensive tackles (Dexter Lawrence-Giants, Jeffery Simmons-Titans and Quinnen Williams-Jets), who were heading into the final year of rookie contracts, would “blow the market out” this offseason in the days leading up to Super Bowl LVII. That’s because Jones knew he would reap the benefit of any changing market conditions.
Simmons is currently No. 2 in the interior defensive lineman salary hierarchy. He received a four-year, $94 million extension, averaging $23.5 million per year with $59.8 million of guarantees, in April. Williams is expected to help narrow the gap between Donald and the rest of the market with a deal upward to $25 million per year before the Jets open training camp in the latter part of July.
Corry is well aware of why the Chiefs may feel urgency to negotiate a new deal with Jones ahead of training camp: their salary cap situation. At Arrowhead Pride, we estimate the Chiefs to have $859,000 in cap space — the lowest in the league, per Spotrac. Under offseason rules, only the 51 highest salaries currently affect the team’s cap.
Converting much of Jones’ scheduled $19.5 million base salary into a new signing bonus could create as much as $10 million in cap space. The Chiefs will need such flexibility when all 53 active roster salaries count against the cap at the end of camp — in addition to funds needed to sign the practice squad and account for any players beginning the season on injured lists.
The Chiefs impending fiscal woes, in Corry’s opinion, give Jones needed leverage.
A tight salary cap situation also cuts in Jones’ favor. The Chiefs are slightly more than $1 million under the salary cap, according to NFLPA data. A Jones extension would be an optimal way to create more breathing room since reigning NFL MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ contract was already restructured for salary cap purposes in March.
One thing that could work against Jones, however, is a highly seen Twitter post from earlier in the offseason seemingly reiterating his commitment to Kansas City.
I'm a chief for life. I will not play for another franchise— Chris Jones (@StoneColdJones) March 12, 2023
Corry would have advised against the public message.
Loyalty can be detrimental in a negotiation. Jones’ sentiment can be interpreted by the Chiefs as he isn’t willing to drive an extremely hard bargain, where he won’t be adamant about topping Donald’s $31,666,667 per year. The Chiefs probably view Donald’s deal as an outlier anyway. I suspect Jones’ “Chief for life” remark will be used against him in negotiations to try to get him to leave money on the table.
Ultimately, Corry expects Jones’ eventual agreement to slot between the defensive tackle extensions already seen this offseason and Donald’s outlier contract — assuming Jones’ camp agrees that resetting the market all together is unrealistic.
A Jones deal shouldn’t be less than the approximate midpoint of Donald and the second-highest-paid interior defensive lineman. This would be right around $27.5 million per year with Williams being unable to beat Simmons’ $23.5 million per year. At this salary level, the overall salary guarantees should at least be in the $70 million neighborhood with around $55 million fully guaranteed at signing based on Simmons’ and Lawrence’s deals. Jones insisting on joining Donald as a $30 million-per-year interior defensive lineman wouldn’t be unreasonable.