You want to see the Kansas City Chiefs sign defensive tackle Chris Jones to another contract extension. I want to see Jones signed to another extension. We all want Jones to finish his borderline Hall of Fame career in Kansas City, adding more Super Bowl rings to his collection.
But what head coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach want — or more correctly, believe to be in the team’s best long-term interests — is what will ultimately matter.
Let’s consider the factors they are weighing right now.
During the past seven seasons, Jones has unquestionably been the team’s most productive defensive player. It’s clear that without him, the team might not have won Super Bowl LVII. Extending his contract seems like a slam-dunk proposition. If Jones can’t get a third contract, who can?
Jones’ negotiating leverage has never been higher. He’s accumulated 232 pressures in his career. Among all defensive linemen, that’s second only to all-time great Aaron Donald (who has 274 in the same seven-year span). In that same period, Jones’ 65.0 sacks rank fourth among all defensive linemen. Coming off a 15.5 sack season where he closed out the AFC Championship game with a dominant performance, it’s hard to imagine Kansas City’s defense reaching its top-10 potential in 2023 without its versatile All-Pro defensive tackle.
Even though Veach and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo have been investing heavily in the defensive line — using recent first-round picks for defensive ends George Karlaftis and Felix Anudike-Uzomah and signing free-agent defensive lineman Charles Omenihu — Jones is still the defensive line’s only proven game-changer. His ability to consistently defeat even the league’s best offensive linemen makes everyone else’s job easier. With Jones, the team could easily field a top-5 pass rush this season — but without him, the team would probably struggle to reach the top 20.
Making this deal with Jones would lock down the team’s best defender for the next four to five seasons, providing a sense of comfort as the unit continues to ascend with all of its recently-acquired young talent. And make no mistake: the Chiefs’ young players are watching these negotiations closely. Extending Jones shows them that in Kansas City, elite production can lead to generational wealth.
There is a harsh reality we must acknowledge: after turning 29 years old in July, Jones’ most productive years are most likely behind him. This isn’t to say his performance in 2024 (and beyond) cannot justify whatever he might be paid under an extension. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment that as he enters his 30s, it will be very challenging to match the production he’s had to this point in his career.
It’s possible that Jones may be asking more than the team is willing to pay for a player close to his age. A year ago, Kansas City fans were still reeling over the team’s decision to trade 28-year-old wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. It appeared that Veach and Reid had a hard price tag they weren’t willing to exceed — and once it became clear that Hill wasn’t willing to accept it, he was sent packing.
To be fair, Jones is in a more advantageous position than Hill was. After moving on from Hill, the Chiefs’ offense had the league’s best quarterback, tight end and offensive coach. The defense doesn’t have those luxuries right now. On the other hand, Jones is a year older than Hill. It’s also true that at this time of the year, it will be much more difficult to trade Jones for draft picks — and those picks cannot bring value to the team until 2024. How much these factors could affect Veach’s calculations remains to be seen.
And that’s what they will be: calculations. With contract negotiations — and any part of football’s business side — every effort must be made to eliminate emotion from the decision-making process.
Finally... Jones is seeking his third NFL contract. The Chiefs now have big second-contract decisions on the horizon for ascending players in their early-to-mid 20s, including center Creed Humphrey, linebacker Nick Bolton, guard Trey Smith, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and others. There will be plenty of demand for future cap dollars, so Kansas City must be careful that a Jones extension doesn’t prevent the retention of these younger stars.
The bottom line
Jones is rumored to be seeking a deal that will pay him $30 million in average annual value (AAV). In a social media post in March, he claimed that he would be a “Chief for life.” But so far, he and the team have not been able to agree on the terms of that commitment.
Can Jones be worth $30 million AAV to the Chiefs — and if so, for how long?
It’s entirely possible — if not likely — that Jones could have one or two more dominant seasons before there is a drop-off in his production — perhaps around 2025. So the two sides might be able to agree on a deal that pays him around $30 million AAV, but guarantees only the first couple of years. This could provide Jones the high salary (and record guarantees) he is reported to desire, but leave Kansas City an out.
But regardless of how things unfold, Chiefs fans should take a deep breath — and keep faith in the brain trust that is in place at One Arrowhead Drive.
Business aside, Jones’ legacy as an all-time great Chief is set in stone. Seeing his Kansas City career continue past 2023 would be incredible. But if the coming season does prove to be Jones’ final chapter while wearing the red and gold, don’t be surprised if the Chiefs continue to contend for Super Bowl championships without him.