Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs need to find a compromise

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs / David Eulitt/GettyImages

The Kansas City Chiefs kick off the new NFL season this Thursday night against the Detroit Lions and while the overwhelming emotion for most fans is excitement, there is still one nagging issue that looms over the start of the season, the Chris Jones holdout. KC's star defensive tackle still has not reported and says he may not for up to 8 weeks if he doesn't get a new deal to his liking.

I previously wrote that Jones deserves to be paid like one of the NFL's top pass rushers and I still believe that, but we are at the point now where neither Jones or the Chiefs are benefitting from this holdout any longer. Fans are taking sides, Travis Kelce is pleading on his podcast for Jones to come back, and Jones' agent is leaking numbers to Mike Florio to try and sway public opinion. It's a mess and a distraction for the team and what they are trying to achieve this year.

I understand fans that are in favor of players getting every last dollar they can in a violent billion dollar sport with a short earning window. I also understand fans that have a "team first" attitude and don't have patience for players that are already millionaires putting a few more million above what is in the best interest for the team. My argument is that we are now at the point where things are hurting both sides and nobody is "winning".

The Chiefs are in the middle of a Super Bowl window where they can lay claim to being one of the great dynasties in the history of the NFL. Chris Jones is a huge part of that. I'm not just talking about his role in the past two Super Bowl wins, but in their chances to earn a third in this era and cement their legacy forever.

The Chiefs ability to win a second Super Bowl after trading away star wideout Tyreek Hill when they couldn't come to a contract agreement has many fans feeling confident that they could do the same without Jones. There's just one big problem there. The Chiefs had the best offensive mind in football at head coach in Andy Reid, the best quarterback in football in Patrick Mahomes, and arguably the best tight end of all time in Travis Kelce to keep the offense clicking without Hill. There isn't anyone of that stature on defense to replace Jones.

Now before you go thinking that I'm saying Jones has all the leverage here, he doesn't. Jones is set to make $19.5 million this season and he's already amassed about $2 million in fines for his holdout. When he starts adding game checks to that total it isn't going to take long before his holdout ends up costing him close to the difference in what the Chiefs are offering and what he is asking for. This is why both sides would benefit from a compromise and getting this deal done.

The Chiefs need Jones to have their best shot at another Super Bowl this season and Jones needs to get a deal done soon to maximize what he is paid this season so that the overall money works out in his favor. The Chiefs have also had a fantastic locker room with little to no drama during this Super Bowl era and the longer this drags on the more people will take sides and this could turn one of KC's strengths as a team into a problem.

So what would a compromise look like? Well we can use the leaked numbers from a few days ago to come up with a pretty simple solution, but first we need to put those numbers in context. I apologize in advance for all the math you're about to digest, but I'll try to keep this as simple as possible. First off, instead of reading the agent biased take on the Chiefs offer and Jones demand that was floated out there a few days ago, I highly recommend this article by Jason Fitzgerald at Over the Cap. It lays out the two sides' offers in an unbiased way.

We know Jones is set to make $19.5 million in 2023. If the reports are accurate, it appears both sides are looking at deals that would add two additional years to Jones contract and keep him under contract through the 2025 season (Jones would be 31 years old that season). The Chiefs offer would give him $55 million in new money and the deal Jones camp wants would give him $65 million in new money. The difference is in how those deals are being presented.

Jones camp says that when you combine the $19.5 for this season with $65 million in new money, you get $84.5 million over three years which is about $28.2 million per year which is right in the middle between Quinnen Williams and Aaron Donald's deals. Their spin on KC's offer is that when you combine the $19.5 for this season and $55 million in new money it only averages $24.8 million per year which is just barely over Williams deal and about $7 million per year below Donald.

However, as Fitzgerald points out in his Over The Cap article, teams have traditionally viewed deals in terms of the new money. So in KC's eyes, the Jones camp wants $65 million in new money over two new years added, which is $32.5 million per year. That's more than the Aaron Donald deal. Their stance is that their $55 million over two additional years is $27.5 million per year which slots in the middle range between Williams and Donald.

So both sides are arguing that they want a deal that slots between Williams and Donald, but are selling the deal in different ways to get in that range. To the Chiefs credit, their deal is the one that would land there by traditional reporting of deals. I understand that some fans will be adamant that the Chiefs shouldn't budge a single dollar from there. However, I think there's a potential compromise there for the taking.

The Chiefs are offering $55 million in new money over two new years. Jones camp says they'll take $65 million in new money over two new years. So I say settle on $60 million in new money over two new years and let's get this thing done. That's $2.5 million more per year for the two new years. That number isn't going to make a drastic difference in what the Chiefs can do salary cap wise over those two years in terms of other extensions or free agent signings.

By traditional reporting methods that would put Jones at $30 million APY for his two new years. That is still $1.7 million below Aaron Donald, but significantly above Quinnen Williams. Jones is fourth in sacks in all the NFL over the past five years, was in the running for defensive player of the year last year, and was voted as one of the top ten players in all the NFL by his peers last season. That $30 million APY number reflects that and with the next wave of top pass rushers about to start getting new deals and the cap continuing to climb, that $30 million APY mark is going to become more and more common.

That deal would also bump the three year average for Jones that his camp is using (the $19.5 for this year plus the $60 in new money) to $26.5 million APY. So even if they use their "creative" outlook on the deal it still puts Jones ahead of Williams in what he is averaging over the next three seasons.

The Chiefs will be a good team this season even if Jones holds out for multiple games. My worry is that if this holdout goes too long it could cause issues in the locker room. I would almost guarantee that there would be some players mad at Jones for holding out that long and hurting the team and others that would be upset with the team for not paying a star player and potentially making them question if they'll be able to re-sign with the team when it's their turn for a new deal. Even when Jones does report his conditioning could be an issue and it could open himself up to injuries. The Chiefs won a Super Bowl without Tyreek Hill, but I don't see it happening without Chris Jones this season.

I also don't see what good amassing millions in fines does for Jones if this is all about getting a few more million per year. Those things will just cancel each other out. Both sides would benefit from getting this thing done and getting Jones back with the team ASAP. It's still early enough that they could ease him into the rotation more and more over the first month or so and then have him at full strength and use for the second half of the season.

So what do you think Chiefs fans? I know some of you are passionately in favor of Chris Jones getting his money and some of you are fed up with Jones to the point that you'd be fine with moving on from him. I'm arguing that a compromise is in everyone's best interest, but I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments below.