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Chris Jones’ holdout could eventually cost him almost $3 million

Kansas City’s defensive tackle will pay a lot of money to an NFLPA charity — but he’ll probably be back to work soon.

Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article explained that in addition to the $50,000 per day training camp fine, Jones would also be charged a fine equal to 1/18 of his 2023 base salary ($1,083,333) for every preseason game he missed. This was incorrect because Jones was a franchise player when he signed his contract in 2020. Under the CBA’s Article 42, the additional per-game fine is owed by a player who is “under contract signed as an Unrestricted Free Agent pursuant to Article 9.” That part of the CBA describes an Unrestricted Free Agent as a player with at least four accused seasons “subject to the provisions of Article 10.” When checking that Article, author John Dixon missed a clause in the opening sentence that reads, “each Club shall be permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free Agent as a Franchise Player each season.” We regret this error.

In July of 2021, former NFL agent Joel Corry wrote a CBS Sports article explaining why holding out during training camp was no longer a bargaining tool for veteran NFL players. Corry argued that the new preseason fine structure laid out in Article 42, Section 1 (b) (vii) of the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the league and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) would make such a strategy untenable.

But it appears that Corry never counted on the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones and his agents. The All-Pro defensive tackle wants a multi-year extension to his contract — which runs through this season — and he’s holding out until he gets it. But it’s costing him a pretty penny.

How much money is Jones’ holdout costing him?

Jones is continuing to accumulate a daily non-reporting fine that began on Friday, July 21 — his training camp reporting date. At this writing on Monday, August 14, that’s 25 days at $50,000 per day, which is $1,250,000.

And let’s not forget that when he missed the team’s three-day minicamp in June, he drew a CBA-mandated $98,753 fine for being absent for those required practices — and had already missed his $500,000 bonus for failing to participate in the voluntary offseason program.

That adds up to a cool $1.8 million.

But as bad as that is, it could get worse. Under the CBA, daily training camp fines are charged up through the last Sunday before the regular season begins. For Jones this year, that’s 45 days. So if he misses the whole preseason, he could be fined another $1 million in daily fines.

Before the current CBA, these kinds of fines could be waived or reduced by the team — but the 2020 CBA specifically prohibits this. The fines do not go to the league or to the team. As confirmed by a reliable source, they are just like fines for on-field violations during the season: they go to a charity specified by the NFLPA. The fines have no effect on the salary cap — although the Chiefs will get a credit of $500,000 against the 2024 cap for Jones’ unearned workout bonus.

Why is Jones allowing himself to be fined?

Here, the answer seems pretty obvious: because he thinks he can earn more in a new contract extension than he will pay in fines.

While we don’t have a clear idea of exactly how much money Jones wants — or how much the team is offering — this suggests that the two sides are at least $3 million apart in total contract value.

It has been suggested that Jones simply hates training camp — and is willing to pay for the privilege of missing it. That might be a reasonable argument until he misses a preseason game, which costs about the same as missing 21 days of training camp.

It’s more likely that Jones was simply willing to risk a few million in fines, hoping he could get the Chiefs to panic at the negotiating table. But it’s hard to imagine that he intends to hold out the entire training camp — or any regular-season games, each of which will cost him $1,083,333 (his 2023 base salary divided by 18) in lost earnings.

Could Jones insist that the Chiefs pay his fines for him?

Sure. He can insist on whatever he wants. He can even hold out for a contract that pays him enough to compensate for the fines he’ll eventually be assessed — because while the CBA prohibits teams from waiving or reducing these fines, it cannot legislate what’s in a player’s mind. If Jones won’t be happy unless he feels the Chiefs are paying his fines for him, the league’s agreement with the union can’t stop him from asking for enough money to make it so.

But here’s the thing: Jones has to pay the fines out of money the Chiefs have already paid him. The team has already accounted for that money under the salary cap. If the team believes that Jones’ salary demands are somehow tied to how much he owes in fines, it might instantly refuse to once again account for that money under the cap.

The bottom line

I think Jones will report to the team sometime after the final training camp practice. That will take place this Thursday.

But I don’t think it will be because he doesn’t want to spend the night in a dorm room. I just believe that Jones would prefer that he gets back into football shape during private practices at the team’s training facility, rather than in front of the rabid fans who come to watch the team practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. By the end of the week, it will also be about the point where there’s just enough practice time (and preseason game time) to be ready for the Week 1 game against the Detroit Lions.

It comes down to this: if Jones cannot get a contract extension with the Chiefs — which seems more likely with each passing day — nothing will be more important to him than playing every game of 2023 like the All-Pro he was in 2022. That means it’s time to get back to work.

As the late Terez Paylor so often reminded us, the contract year is undefeated.

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