The Kansas City Chiefs are on the clock. And if history is any indication, they have just over a week left before things start getting a bit uncomfortable.
Technically there is no countdown and, again technically, defensive tackle Chris Jones is under contract through the entire 2023 NFL season. If the Chiefs wanted to wash their hands of any contractual talk for the next several months, they absolutely could and Jones would play out his eighth season on the contract he signed with the team back in 2020.
That said, expectations in K.C. are that the Chiefs are going to reach an agreement with Jones a third contract that could keep him in red and gold for the rest of his career. And if so, they're going to have to pay through the nose.
Chris Jones is going to cost the Chiefs a pretty penny.
On Thursday, the Chiefs got to fill in the blanks on the complete financial market at the position Jones plays. The New York Jets signed Quinnen Williams to a new four-year deal on Thursday worth up to $96 million with $66M of that guaranteed. That wraps up a busy offseason for defensive tackles around the league enjoying a lot of new money—e.g. Javon Hargrave in San Francisco, Dexter Lawrence in New York, Dalvin Tomlinson in Cleveland, Daron Payne in Washington.
The belief is this: If Jones is recognized as the best defensive tackle in the game not named Aaron Donald then he should be paid more than anyone else—except Aaron Donald. Donald himself signed a three-year, $95M deal with the Rams a year ago. That sets the ceiling, yes, but it's also old news market-wise.
Whether or not the Chiefs and/or Jones would agree with that simplistic reduction of these contract negotiatons is anyone's guess, but the prevailing idea is that Jones's ask will top Quinnen Williams, at least. However, his expectation is also expected to be short of Donald's numbers. So where does that put the Chiefs?
First let's look at average annual value. Williams is looking at an average of $24M while Donald is just over $31M, and this gap could be problematic for the Chiefs. The Chiefs could offer $24.5 in some sort of "lowball" offer and still make Jones the second-highest paid tackle in the game. Yet that comes up far short of Donald's totals that are already a year old (forever in NFL terms) and seems far too low.
The other aspect that's important to note here is that everything in Donald's deal is guaranteed. The Rams have an odd way of operating at times, but Donald is also a future first-ballot Hall of Famer and the deal is what it is. The Chiefs can't ignore it but it's also hard to point to it as a good example. After all, the Chiefs can't trump that with all guaranteed dollars and even annual value is an extremely tough ask.
It would make sense for the Chiefs to offer something close to what the Rams offered Donald in annual value while propping up an impressive guaranteed number that knocks Williams out of the No. 2 spot there. Remember Jones already got $60 million in guaranteed money three years ago, so just going over Quinnen Williams's numbers doesn't make sense here either.
In the end, given Jones' status as the defensive anchor for a Super Bowl team heading into his third contract (instead of his second like so many others this offseason), it makes sense for a new deal to come in at four seasons with amounts close to what Donald received from the Rams. Let's predict something like $28.5M per year for four years ($114M) with $76M guaranteed.