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If Chris Jones gets the franchise tag in 2024, it will be higher than some have believed

There is some confusion about how much Kansas City’s defensive tackle would make under a 2024 franchise tag.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kansas City Chiefs star defensive tackle Chris Jones is currently holding out from the team’s training camp practices at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri. He and the team are said to be “far apart” on negotiations for an extension to his current contract, which runs through the coming season.

As conversations about Jones’ contract have taken place, there has often been a misunderstanding of one of the critical factors in the equation: what Jones could earn if he is franchise-tagged for the 2024 season.

Of course, official franchise tag values for 2024 won’t be available until next spring. In 2023, however, defensive tackle tags were valued at 120% of a player’s prior year salary or $18.9 million — whichever is greater.

Many have interpreted “prior year salary” as a player’s base salary, which does not include roster bonuses, the yearly pro-rated amount for the contract’s original signing bonus and other items included in Jones’ salary cap hit for 2023. Under this understanding of how it is calculated, as a free agent in 2024, Jones’ franchise tag amount would be 120% of his base salary of $19.5 million. That would be $23.4 million.

But that is incorrect.

The confusion arises from how the value of franchise and transition tags are defined in the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which in Article 10, Section 2 (a) (i) (B) uses “prior year salary” to define the amount multiplied by 120%.

But later in Article 10, Section 2 (e) says that for the purposes of Article 10, “prior year salary” means the player’s base salary (“Paragraph 5 salary”) — along with “roster and reporting bonuses, pro-rata portion of signing bonus, and other payments to players... except for performance bonuses other than roster and reporting bonuses.”

Here’s how former agent Joel Corry (now a CBS Sports analyst) recently put it:

Corry is simply pointing out that for purposes of the franchise tag calculation, “prior year salary” is the player’s cap hit minus any incentives in the player’s contract.

The problem is that we don’t always know exactly what those incentives are — whether they are likely-to-be-earned (LTBE) or not-likely-to-be-earned (NLTBE).

So it’s essentially impossible for us to calculate exactly what Jones’ potential franchise tag number might be in 2024. We can say, however, that given his 2023 cap hit of $28.3 million minus the $1.25 million charged against the 2023 cap for NLTBE incentives earned in 2022 (data via Spotrac), his 2024 franchise tag should be somewhere around 120% of $27.1 million, which works out to $32.5 million.

Given this, the rumors that Jones is seeking something around $30 million per year in average annual value (AAV) are not surprising — or perhaps even unreasonable. This is because if he becomes a free agent under the franchise tag in 2024, they’ll pay him more than that.

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