Aaron Donald's retirement opens the door for Chris Jones's long-term legacy

All Chris Jones has to do to cement his HOF legacy is to stay consistent for the next couple of seasons.
Super Bowl LVIII - Kansas City Chiefs Media Availability
Super Bowl LVIII - Kansas City Chiefs Media Availability / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

The door is wide open for Chris Jones.

Those of us in Chiefs Kingdom have been convinced for a little while now of Stone Cold's lasting legacy—specifically that he deserves a spot reserved in Canton, Ohio in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's the best defensive player on a historic NFL team and is one of the most feared pass rushers in the game today.

But for those on the outside of Arrowhead, Jones has also stood in the shadows of a historic pillar for his entire career–as has every other defensive tackle. That's just the nature of what happens when playing in the same era as an Aaron Donald.

All Chris Jones has to do to cement his HOF legacy is to stay consistent for the next couple of seasons.

Donald retired earlier this offseason and in five years, he will be inducted in his first season of eligibility into the same Hall of Fame that Jones is hoping to make his way into. For Donald, it will be a no-brainer. After all, he's one of the single greatest defensive players ever—a player on the same scale as Reggie White or Lawrence Taylor—who's a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and a 10-time Pro Bowler.

Until now, Jones has had to settle for "besides Aaron Donald" as the stated asterisk or clause next to any descriptor of his game. For example, "Chris Jones is the best defensive tackle in the NFL besides Aaron Donald." You get the drift. That's high praise indeed, but it was impossible to mention Jones without also mentioning the ultimate metric for greatness—and that always somehow diminished Jones's own historic standing.

But now that path is clear. Donald has retired. Jones is now the greatest defensive tackle in the game (and he's being paid like it). Given the global interest in the Chiefs, the amount of primetime exposure for the franchise, the recognizability of Jones himself, and the lack of Donald in the league, it's the perfect time—a sort of planetary alignment—for Jones to cement his legacy.

What someone like Jones needs is a few seasons for his name to become synonymous with "the best" at his given position—without the shadowy words "besides Aaron Donald" hanging around. He needs to stay the course with a dozen or more sacks this season and next to help anchor things up front for a contending Chiefs team. Team success plus personal production in this instance will force the rest of us to do the lifting from there.

When Jones takes over the game this year, there will be no one looming o'er him anymore. Announcers will hail him as the best. Fans will celebrate him as such. Debates will no longer qualify him as the best only in the AFC or the second-best overall. The league will honor him as the best interior force in the game.

It's with those terms applied that Jones will finalize his legacy and push voters for the Pro Football HOF over the edge. He always had a chance at eventual induction, but now the path to all-time greatness is fully cleared for him to walk it.