All-Pro DT Chris Jones, Chiefs agree contract isn’t personal. But what’s next?

Chris Jones
Posted at 1:23 PM, Sep 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-14 14:24:01-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From the outside, it’s been a contentious few months between the Kansas City Chiefs and star defensive tackle Chris Jones, who ended his holdout Monday by signing a reworked one-year deal for the 2023 season.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid at times seemed put off by ongoing questions about Jones’ status.

Jones maintained a mercurial and sometimes almost confrontational presence on social media.

Ultimately, General Manager Brett Veach didn’t cave into Jones’ contract wishes.

RELATED | Jones ‘Super pleased’ after holdout despite no long-term deal

It would be easy to understand if resentment or animosity bubbled up during Jones’ contract holdout, which included sitting out the Chiefs’ season-opening loss last week against Detroit, but the picture Jones painted wasn’t one of acrimony.

“I love Veach; he knows I love him,” Jones said. “We had on-and-off conversation throughout it all. Coach Reid, I love him, too. We all still call and text.”

Jones revealed that they actually have a group text through which he shared a “Chris Jones after season/Chris Jones offseason” meme that depicted that latter Jones unkempt.

“I was big with no neck,” Jones said with a laugh. “We actually a little joke about that through the midst of it (the negotiation), so I don’t think our relationship was affected about it. They know how much I love the organization, they know how much I love this team and I don’t think it affected any part of our relationship. ... The business aspect, you can’t get personal into it. When you get personal, things can go bad. I never took it personally.”

Reid suggested much the same.

“There wasn’t any personal thing going on there,” Reid said. “It was just, he made a business decision and that’s part of this thing. I’m old, so I’ve been through a lot of those. Those things happen. I’m able to separate it and he separated it. Now he’s back and we go.”

The normally stoic Reid seldom gushes, but it was clear he was glad to have the saga behind him so Kansas City could move on in its quest for the NFL’s first Super Bowl repeat since the 2003-04 New England Patriots.

Reid said he and Jones have talked to make sure the air is and will remain clear, but Jones did take one aspect of his holdout personally.

“I did take some of the stuff y’all said about me on Twitter personally,” Jones said with his trademark wide grin, addressing the wider Chiefs Kingdom. “I keep receipts. All you all, you’ve been talking stuff on Twitter. I keep receipts.”

So, what comes next?

Jones should be on the field Sunday at Jacksonville, but his future beyond 2023 remains cloudy. Here are the Chiefs’ options with Jones:

1. Hammer out a long-term agreement this season

Nothing in the CBA prevents Jones’ camp and the Chiefs from continuing to work on a long-term deal, but that option might not be on the table.

“That’s a conversation for after the season,” Jones said of returning to the negotiating table. “I don’t want to have to go back and forth during the season. My focus right now is being the best me I can be for this team and for this defense.”

Jones’ next long-term contract will probably be the richest he ever signs, so if he has a monster first half of the season and the Chiefs decide to give him what he wanted during the holdout, Jones could change his mind.

Signing a deal sooner rather than later provides a hedge against the possibility of injury for Jones, so a change of heart is possible.

2. Sign a long-term deal after being tagged

Because Jones only signed a reworked one-year deal, it’s a near certainty that he’s getting franchise tagged unless there’s a new deal during the season.

With draft preparation, including the NFL Scouting Combine, and other free-agency assessments, it would be almost impossible to work out on a complex long-term deal before the mid-March franchise-tag deadline.

But even if Jones gets tagged, the two sides have until mid-July to reach a long-term deal that overrides the guaranteed one-year contract ensured by the franchise tag.

The Chiefs would have incentive to work something out rather than have Jones play on a massive fully guaranteed one-year deal, because there are a lot of key players in line for raises in the next two years.

Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and defensive lineman Mike Danna will be free agents after the season, while linebacker Nick Bolton, center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith have two years remaining on their rookie deals.

If Jones wants to stay in Kansas City and the team wants to keep him locked in long-term, the most likely scenario is a franchise tag and a new deal before mid-July.

3. Tag and trade

The Chiefs obviously view Jones as an asset, but he becomes a trade asset rather than an on-field asset in the absence of a long-term deal.

If the two sides remain far apart on a multi-year deal, Kansas City’s best bet might be to tag Jones and trade him to a team willing to meet his contract demands.

The Chiefs were on the receiving end of defensive end Frank Clark from Seattle in a similar situation before the 2019 season, so if that’s where the relationship winds up going expect some movement near or before the 2024 NFL Draft.

The tag buys the Chiefs time — time to evaluate Jones’ future potential, to evaluate the free-agent market and to evaluate the trade market.

It’s an easy calculation if Kansas City wants Jones back — return to the negotiating table.

But replacing him, if it comes to that, would take more time and machination. The franchise tag buys that.

4. Let him walk

It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs simply letting Jones go for nothing more than a future compensatory draft pick, but that’s what happened with Orlando Brown Jr. after his franchise-tag season.

Of course, Brown isn’t an elite left tackle, while Jones is an elite pass-rushing defensive tackle.

I believe Veach will find a way to keep Jones or get value for losing him.