The Chiefs have completed their first day of mandatory mini-camp, and there was a notable absence. One of the best defenders in the entire NFL, and Chiefs superstar Chris Jones was not present at mini-camp, and the reason is likely due to his lack of a contract extension. The Defensive tackle market has skyrocketed this offseason, but no contract has exceeded the value of Aaron Donald’s deal in which he averages over $31 million/year. Jones has made it clear he doesn’t need to break that number, but he does want to be the second highest paid at his position. This would mean the Chiefs must pay somewhere between $24-30 million/year for Jones’s services.
There are some talks throughout the Chiefs Kingdom that the Chiefs should once again take the Tyreek Hill path and trade Jones for picks, or younger assets. However, I believe that would be foolish and set the Chief’s dynasty back several years. As stated, Jones is one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and on any given Sunday can be the difference-maker in a game. Even just this year, the Chiefs don’t make it to the Super Bowl if Jones doesn’t wreck the Bengals OL the entire game, and make the game-saving sack and the end of the 4th quarter. Just like Mahomes and Kelce on offense, the Chiefs may not see another player of Jones caliber for a decade or more.
The losses of Frank Clark and Juan Thornhill may need seem like a big deal on paper, as the Chiefs have done a good job of replacing them with young, competitive players, but this means the defense is losing a lot of veteran presence. If the Chiefs were then to also lose Chris Jones, then who does that to lead the defense? The defensive line suffers immensely, as Chris Jones makes everyone around him better. It would be hard to point to a play in which Jones wasn’t being double-teamed last season, and when he got 1-on-1 opportunities it almost always led to a sack or a QB pressure. There is no one currently on the roster who can play the interior on all three downs to even remotely close to the same level as Jones. The Chiefs absolutely cannot afford to lose him, but for fun’s sake, what if they did decide to move on?
What Is The Alternative?
Let’s say the Chiefs think they can make it work without Jones, they can do the same thing they did with Tyreek. Replace Jones with a cheap committee of players, and invest in the future of the team instead of the present. Patrick Mahomes is all you need at the end of the day, right? The first move would be finding a team willing to dish out the picks/players to obtain Jones, while also being willing to give Jones a contract he is happy with. The tricky part is the draft has already past, meaning if the Chiefs move on from Jones now, they get no value this season if they get exclusive picks out of the deal as they did with Tyreek.
There is only one team who could offer a player of similar value to Jones for the Chiefs, but the trade would make little sense, as that player is also currently seeking a contract extension. That player is Quinnen Williams of the Jets. Logistically it just doesn’t make sense for either side, but it would be a fun idea. The trading problem for the problem. The trade would allow the Chiefs to get younger at the position, and perhaps spend a little less money, while the Jets can up their contender status another level.
So, there you have it, there is no option that makes sense for the Chiefs. If they refuse to pay Jones what he’s asking, the only other option is to play it out, and hope he returns before the season starts. Allow Jones to play out his deal this year, and you can always tag him in the offseason if needed. From there the debate would truly begin of if he should be traded or extended. Worst-case scenario Jones sits out, and the Chiefs get no value out of him whatsoever. That’s unlikely though, as Jones would not only miss a prime year of his career, but he would also miss out on $25+ million. In the end, let’s hope the Chiefs end this debacle sooner rather than later, so we can focus on what’s truly important, running it back.