The Kansas City Chiefs had no choice but to keep Chris Jones

New dropped late Saturday night the Chiefs and Jones had agreed to terms on an extension that will keep him in Kansas City for the next few seasons at least. This was and should have been the top priority for the Chiefs this offseason.

Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

After the bevy of cryptic tweets and newfound disdain for certain ultra-greasy agents, news dropped on Saturday night the Kansas City Chiefs and Chris Jones had agreed on a contract extension—news that was greeted with almost unanimous excitement. Jones will be a Chief for at least the remaining ultra-productive years of his career and will do so as the highest-paid defensive tackle in football. It's a paycheck that he has certainly earned over the course of his tenure in Kansas City

The Jones news was the second major domino to fall this offseason for Kansas City, with the first being that the team would (and did) use the franchise tag on cornerback L'Jarius Sneed. For those who came into the offseason fearing the worst for a Chiefs defense that was dominant in 2023 but littered with free agents heading into 2024, the Sneed news coupled with the few days of no deal for Jones certainly created some silent tension. But we've witnessed the chipping away of doubts and reconstruction of a defense that cemented a dynasty with the extension of Steve Spagnuolo, the re-signing of Drue Tranquill, and now the extension of Chris Jones. These moves almost certainly guarantee Sneed will play elsewhere in 2024, but they also show that the Chiefs are executing on what they knew they had to do going into a defense of back-to-back Super Bowl championships.

A new deal for Chris Jones was and should have been the top priority for the Chiefs this offseason.

There were several ways the Chiefs could have gone this offseason. Do you part ways with Jones and focus your efforts on re-signing Sneed, who when paired with All-Pro Trent McDuffie is a part of the best cornerback combo in the league? Or do you pay Chris Jones what the market was inevitably going to dictate and let Sneed walk? The answer is clear now, but if you look at the big picture of the Chiefs defensive scheme coming off of the past two seasons—and really, the entirety of Spagnuolo's time in Kansas City—it has been crystal clear all along.

Chris Jones is not an apex predator, he is a keystone species. Where an apex predator like L'Jarius Sneed or other top-shelf defenders in the NFL thrive and demand respect in their surroundings, a keystone species like Jones defines the entire ecosystem around it. Chris Jones is more than a defensive tackle, particularly for this iteration of the Chiefs' defense.

Look at the way Spags has schemed Jones in the previous 2-3 seasons. He is not a 3-tech defensive tackle, nor is he a 1-tech inside run stopper. He has lined up all across opposing offensive lines - almost stalking his prey and breaking down tackles, guards, and centers across the league until he and Spagnuolo can find the soft spot in the underbelly of an opposing offensive protection. Jones has come up with big play after big play late in crucial games for Kansas City throughout the last two Super Bowl runs in large part due to this very strategy.

But there is no singular impact on a team's success when you're talking about a player as talented and versatile as Chris Jones. We saw in Super Bowl 58 alone Spagnuolo's ability to dial up blitzes at the perfect time—e.g. 3rd down late in the game against San Francisco when Trent McDuffie wrecked a play for the 49ers and forced another field goal—and his ability to make other teams sweat at the thought of yet another elaborate blitz sneaking up on them. Those blitz packages could certainly be called without Jones in the lineup, but their effectiveness would be nowhere near as high without the tinkering that Spags and Jones roll out early in games.

Finding a weak spot in an offense's protection packages can be done in a lot of ways, but the luxury of having Jones expose those time and time again is more valuable than anything most interior defensive linemen can provide to a team. The Chiefs could have played the market and not paid top dollar for Jones, but in return, they would have gotten a much less effective player to fill a position that has been the most crucial piece of their defense in the midst of a dynasty.

Chris Jones more than likely won't get any MVP votes in 2024. Unless he has a career year from a sacks perspective, he likely won't win Defensive Player of the Year. But he is an irreplaceable piece on a defense that made one of the most impressive playoff runs in the history of the NFL. He is the best defensive player on the league's premier franchise. This is a move the Chiefs had to make.