Chris Jones betting on himself is going better than Chiefs fans want to admit

Is Chris Jones playing himself out of the Kansas City Chiefs' future plans?

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Kansas City Chiefs fans need to admit that defensive tackle Chris Jones is on pace for another All-Pro season. The superstar made no friends by skipping the season opener amidst his contract negotiations. That move did not recoup his staggering fines, but Jones's performance through Week 9 has him on pace for a big raise following this season.

Jones has drawn his share of criticism this season, even before his bone-headed penalty in Germany. The criticism never made much sense if you look at the numbers. Critics will point to his 5.5 sacks as a reason for him not being Kansas City's top pass rusher, but that does not tell the entire story. Jones currently trails defensive end George Karlaftis for the team lead in sacks by a .5 margin.

However, Jones's impact on the field goes far beyond just sack numbers. According to ESPN, he leads all NFL players in double-team rate, drawing two blockers on 71% of his snaps. Opposing offensive coordinators know how much Jones can wreck a game plan. Yet, despite trying to negate him, he ranks fourth in total pressures and tied for second in total sacks amongst interior defenders. Teams can only hope to contain Jones, rather than stop him altogether. 

Is Chris Jones playing himself out of the Kansas City Chiefs' future plans?

Jones' impact goes beyond the stat sheet. His relentless pursuit of the quarterback creates opportunities for his teammates to make plays. Opposing offenses must allocate extra resources to block him, which opens up gaps for Karlaftis, Danna, and Omenihu to exploit. This dynamic makes Jones an invaluable asset to Spagnuolo's defensive scheme and highlights his ability to elevate the performance of those around him. 

Jones is currently on pace for 11 sacks and 64 pressures—all numbers any team would want from a star defender. The question is if Jones will be paid as such in Kansas City.

Jones sought a new contract all offseason, racking up $2.35 million in non-waivable fines and losing a $1.08 million game check for Week 1 in the process. He returned to the team on a one-year contract worth up to $25 million, with no guarantees to make more money this season than he already would have. According to Ian Rapoport, the incentives break down like this:

  • $1 million for 35% playing time.
  • $1 million for 50% of the playing time
  • $1.25 million for 10 sacks.
  • Another $500K for 15 sacks.
  • $1 million for first-team All-Pro and Super Bowl LVIII appearances
    $2 million for Defensive Player of the Year and a Super Bowl LVIII win

If Jones hits all those wickets, his contract will be the last thing on Kansas City fans' minds after winning the Super Bowl with the league's DPOTY. But it would leave the Chiefs with a difficult contract decision this offseason. The franchise tag in 2024 would be approximately $32.4 million, according to NFL Network's James Palmer.

This would put a significant strain on the team's salary cap and not give Jones the financial security he wanted this offseason. I am still a fan of the tag-and-trade approach for Jones, no matter how well his 2023 season goes. That is because he has already shown his value this season. 

Jones can elevate young talent around him while still performing like one of the league's best interior defenders. The opposing offense can still scheme against Jones, but he will always find a way to the quarterback. If Jones keeps his current pace, he will likely become the league's highest-paid defensive tackle ever, which means the chances that a contract comes in Kansas City seem slimmer and slimmer as the season progresses.