When the Kansas City Chiefs re-signed All-Pro defensive lineman Chris Jones to a one-year contract worth up to $25 million, ending his holdout, they also retained the right to use the franchise tag on him next offseason making free agency a distinct possibility. But, according to ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler, that may not be in the cards for the Chiefs and the four-time Pro Bowler.
“The Chiefs likely won’t pay a franchise tag that could swing above $30 million for Jones due to his massive 2023 cap hit,” Fowler wrote on September 13. “He’s set to become the top free agent in March at age 29.”
Chiefs ‘Likely’ to Let Chris Jones to Test Free Agency
Chris Jones Vital to Chiefs Defense
Jones recorded 15.5 sacks last season, tied for the third-most in the NFL. And his 65 sacks since 2016 are tied for the eighth-most in that span.
He has also been critical to the Chiefs’ defense’s success.
Per NFL Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs have led the league in pressure rate with Jones on the field over the last five seasons. When he is off the field, they rank just 28th. They recorded just one sack – courtesy of Mike Danna – and four pressures on Lions quarterback Jared Goff in the season opener.
The good news for the Chiefs is that Jones says his focus is more on the field than his bank account and being the highest-paid player at his position.
This despite a belief that he wanted to rival Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald.
“That’s always a goal,” Jones said, per Ron Kopp of Arrowhead Pride on September 13. “But important? No. Is it important for me to be the best at my position? Absolutely. I think that’s where my mind is at – being the best. Not being the highest-paid.”
Still, Jones is set up to be paid handsomely when the time comes. Fowler believes the Chiefs were willing to make Jones the No. 2 highest-paid tackle. But the game between Donald and the rest of the position is still wide. Jones should have no shortage of suitors. And it will just take one of them to come in with a contract that may lure him away from Kansas City.
— NFL (@NFL) January 31, 2023
5 Teams That Could Make a Run at Chiefs’ Chris Jones in Free Agency
1) The Chicago Bears have to be at the top of this list. They are led by General Manager Ryan Poles, a former executive with the Chiefs. Their defense, which recorded a league-low 20 sacks and ranked 32nd against the run last season. And it may not be much better this season if Week 1 is any indication.
2) New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is known for letting a player go a year too early rather than a year too late. But that has been most prevalent on offense and, in the last two seasons, with wide receivers. Defensively, Belichick has long made a habit of picking up proven defensive pieces. Jones could be the crown jewel.
3) Houston’s appearance on this list might be surprising. They are a young team that is trying to break in a rookie at quarterback. But, if C.J. Stroud proves to be the real deal, throwing the kitchen sink at Jones could be a worthwhile endeavor. Provided, of course, they can convince him to take the bag over the sure-fire playoff run with Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback.
4) Jones got to see what the Lions could do during the opener with a pass rush led by Aidan Hutchison and the EDGE position. What they don’t have is an interior pocket pusher, and certainly not one with Jones’ ability. Similar to Houston, Detroit would have to come with the full boat to convince Jones to jump. But it could be worth it.
5) The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t figure to have enough money to land Jones right now. But they can easily get there if they want to, and they have their own talented passer in Trevor Lawrence. For Jacksonville, the theme, as it is with Houston and Detroit, will be offering Jones enough to make the Chiefs uncomfortable. And to make him want to take the risk of leaving.
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