The Kansas City Chiefs have a difficult dilemma on their hands. Superstar defensive tackle Chris Jones is currently franchised, and Jones went on Twitter to say that he won’t play without a new contract. The two sides have until July 15th to come to an agreement, so time is very much of the essence.
The Chiefs have three options for how to handle the Chris Jones situation. They could extend him, trade him, or call his bluff. Let’s take a look at each option, and see which path the Chiefs should take.
How the Kansas City Chiefs Should Handle the Chris Jones Situation
Option 1: Extend Him
The easiest path for the team and player is to come to an agreement sometime in the next two weeks. Jones has a case to be the best defensive tackle in the league not named Aaron Donald, so he’s sure to receive a massive extension.
According to Spotrac, the elite defensive tackles currently make upwards of $20 million per year. Donald leads the league with a $22.5 million annual salary, followed closely by DeForest Buckner’s $21 million and Fletcher Cox at $17.1 million.
Buckner’s five-year, $105 million contract is a good starting point for the two sides. The former San Francisco 49er received his contract extension just before the NFL Draft, and both players perform at roughly the same level. Jones is one year younger than Buckner, so there shouldn’t be a dramatic change in the length of any proposed deal.
Now that the framework of a potential deal is laid out, let’s see if the Chiefs have the cap space to make that type of a deal possible. As of this posting, Kansas City currently has just $6.2 million in available cap space.
At first glance, one would assume that the Chiefs would have to make a few moves to fit a potential Jones extension within the restraints of the salary cap. However, that number already includes Jones and his $16.1 million franchise tag. Depending on how Kansas City structured his deal, the Chiefs could actually clear some 2020 cap space with an extension.
Kansas City could make the deal work in the short term, but there are a few long-term consequences to any potential deal. For one, the team needs to start thinking about Patrick Mahomes. The reigning Super Bowl MVP will get PAID sooner rather than later, and the team needs to start preparing for that inevitable extension.
Additionally, the salary cap is expected to plummet in 2021. Thanks to COVID-19, the NFL is projecting significant losses in revenue, which means a smaller salary cap. Mahomes isn’t going to sign at a discount, and the Chiefs will need to start making some hard decisions. Unfortunately, you can’t keep everyone, and Jones just might be the odd man out.
Option 2: Trade Chris Jones
If the Chiefs decide that extending Jones isn’t in their best long-term interests, they’ll need to look for a trade partner. Teams cannot extend a player on a franchise tag after July 15th, so Kansas City will need to hurry up and find a partner.
Once again, let’s look to DeForest Buckner as an example. Last year, the Colts gave up a first-round pick for the right to sign Buckner to a massive contract. Considering the similarity of these two, it makes sense to think that another team would be willing to pay the same price.
Chris Jones is a phenomenal player, but a first-round pick could be too good to pass up. As previously mentioned, money will probably be tight in the upcoming season, and there’s no such thing as too much draft capital. If the offer’s there, Kansas City might have to pull the trigger.
Option 3: Call His Bluff
The worst thing the Chiefs could do is call Jones’ bluff. Players in the past have threatened to hold out rather than play under the franchise tag, but most end up caving after a handful of weeks. However, this is a risk the Chiefs shouldn’t take.
For one, Jones mentioned Le’Veon Bell in his tweet about holding out. Bell famously missed the 2018 campaign following a contract holdout and eventually landed a massive payday with the New York Jets. Jones will probably try a similar tactic, and it’ll probably pay off for him.
Assuming that happens, the Chiefs risk losing Jones for a compensatory third-round pick in 2022. This is easily the worst-case scenario and a fate that should be avoided at all costs. One way or another, Chris Jones should have his long-awaited contract by July 15th. The only question is whether or not the Chiefs will be the team handing out said deal.
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