Chris Jones has more leverage with the Chiefs than you think

The Kansas City Chiefs do not hold all of the leverage in the Chris Jones negotiations. Jones has good reasons to hold out as long as it takes to get what he wants to get paid.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs / Rob Carr/GettyImages

It was just a month ago when it felt more like “when” and not “if” Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones would be in camp with a long-term extension signed and he would be in St. Joe going through the rigors of training camp with his teammates. 

We are now a couple of days away from the Chiefs first preseason game and the two sides are so dug in that Jones has been willing to absorb more than a million dollars in fines. Holdouts tend to last longer when both sides have good arguments to make. 

Before camp, the Chiefs brass were probably thinking Jones is under contract this season with a base salary due of $19,500,000 and that he would report to camp and continue to negotiate in good faith. Andy Reid seemed a bit surprised Jones did not report, so it is probably safe to assume they did not know he was willing to tally as much in fines as he has. 

The team has also been shy to extend people into their thirties, unless your name is Travis Kelce or Patrick Mahomes. One could make the point that Jones belongs in that company, in terms of tangible and intangible value to the team. 

The crux of the problem is there is a seven million dollar per year gap between the second and highest-paid defensive tackle in the league. That is a large bridge to gap.

Chris Jones has good reasons to hold out as long as it takes to get what he wants to get paid.

When talking about leverage, oftentimes it is good to ask, who needs who more?

The reality is Jones just turned 29 years old and this is his last real chance at a big payday. He is the 10th-best player in the league, according to his peers and is the best defensive tackle in the league, according to PFF. He just finished third in the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year voting. 

He deserves to be the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league, and not even can the Chiefs argue that. Jones has been a stand-up teammate and citizen to go along with his dominance throughout his seven years in Kansas City. If he wanted to inflict all of his power, he could simply request a trade. 

If Jones did that, someone would trade for him and pay him more than Aaron Donald, which is north of $31,000,000 per year. When a player is that disgruntled, the team trading the player loses a lot of leverage because the receiving team knows he wants out. 

These are different situations entirely, but this offseason Aaron Rodgers was traded for a second-round pick essentially and Jalen Ramsey was traded for a third. Jones would not bring back a Tyreek Hill-type of haul at this point. 

Jones is a two-time Super Bowl Champion and has the statistical trajectory of a Hall of Famer to go with it. If he has even just two more years of peak play he could end up north of 90 sacks as an interior rusher, which is in rare company. That would make him a lock for the Hall of Fame, no matter who he ends his career with. His legacy will still be intact. 

Where the Chiefs' leverage does lie, is in the 2023 season. Jones is not going to ever make $19,500,000 back if he sits out, and he actually has to play six games to accrue a full season to become a free agent at season's end. The Chiefs would never let him walk. At season's end they would either sign an extension at that point or tag and trade him as they did with Dee Ford a couple of years ago. Again, the return on investment would pale in comparison to dealing him before the 2023 Draft. 

With that being said, the Chiefs need Jones to show up sooner rather than later to get ready for the season. That desperation of that is even greater now that we know defensive end Charles Omenihu will be suspended for six games. Frank Clark is gone and signed with a rival. Carlos Dunlap is sitting at home. George Karlaftis, Mike Danna, Tershawn Wharton, Derrick Nnadi, Felix Anudike-Uzomah and Keondre Coburn have a combined career 25.5 sacks. 

The defense is without a blue-chip player if Jones is not out there and those defensive linemen need Jones to take on the double and triple-teams to free them up to get after the quarterback. Not to mention the Chiefs flat-out need Jones’ production if they do not want to completely stress the offense. 

The good news is everyone is still saying the right things. Brett Veach knows Jones deserves to get paid, wants him to end his career with the Chiefs and says he has no intentions of trading him. Nothing appears sideways, yet. 

The Chiefs do not really have any abysmal contracts on the books and I think most Chiefs fans want to see him stick around for the long haul, even if the last couple years on the deal are not the same, production-wise. There’s still time to get the extension done. 

And take it for what it is worth, but Chris Jones still says he loves Kansas City.