While the rest of the NFL has been quietly going about its business for the last week, the Kansas City Chiefs have been hard at work. Last week, it was Patrick Mahomes’ new contract which had the NFL world buzzing. And this week, for a few hours at least, it was news of a new contract for Chris Jones that was the latest headline made by the Chiefs in 2020.
Jones was due to play on the franchise tag in 2020, which would have seen him earn $16.126 million. However, Jones had hinted on Twitter that he might be willing to sit out the 2020 season as opposed to playing on the tag. The Chiefs had remained adamant that they were working on a deal, but a number of conflicting reports were surfacing about how close the two sides were.
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However, on Tuesday, with around 24 hours until the deadline for the Chiefs and Jones to agree on a long-term deal, news broke of a four-year $80 million extension for the former second-round selection.
Let’s take a look at the contract and what it means for the Chiefs both in 2020 and beyond.
Chris Jones’ New Contract
A smart contract length for Jones
At just 26 years old, it was always going to be interesting to see just how long the Chiefs would be willing to lock Jones in for. In the end, it was somewhat surprising that the deal was only four years. Often teams like to have a deal that lasts into a fifth or sixth year with no guaranteed money, giving them total control over their player.
However, a four-year deal is extremely smart for Jones as it allows him to potentially hit free agency at just 30 years of age. 2024 will also be at the beginning of the new television deal that the NFL is expecting. Therefore, the NFL salary cap could experience a boom, which could result in a difference-maker such as Jones paid extremely handsomely that offseason.
The contract specifics
This four-year deal is smart for both sides. In terms of the 2020 season, Jones’ salary will see little difference to what Jones was expected to play on under the franchise tag. However, instead of being a free agent, Jones will have a guaranteed $21.5 million salary in the 2021 season, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
With the first two years of his salary guaranteed, Jones has a total of $37.626 million in guaranteed money at the time of signing the contract. Additionally, on top of that, Jones also has an injury protection guarantee of a further $22.374 million, which is equal to his third-year salary.
However, that injury guarantee would not have covered Jones if he was cut after the second year of his deal. To mitigate this, there is a clause in the deal which will mean that prior to the 2021 season $18.124 million of his third-year salary is guaranteed, protecting Jones from being cut prior to the 2022 season. Therefore, this deal is essentially a three-year $60 million deal with a team option for a fourth year at $20 million.
Where this deal is smart for the Chiefs is in the lack of signing bonus on the deal. If the Chiefs had put even $10 million of the deal as a signing bonus, then Jones would have had $2.5 million count against their cap in each of the four years of the deal. That would have meant that if the Chiefs decided to move on in the fourth year they would have had to eat $2.5 million in dead cap.
How does the Jones deal compare to the rest of the position?
If you compare the deal to the interior defensive line position as a whole, then Jones’ number places him third at the position. Aaron Donald is by far the leader in terms of both the total contract value at $135 million and the average contract value at $22.5 million per year. However, with Donald’s positional assignment being a 3-4 defensive end, he does not provide a direct comparison to Jones, who is valued as a 4-3 defensive tackle.
If we compare Jones’ contract to the 4-3 defensive tackle position, then his contract is very similar to the deal signed by Deforest Buckner earlier this offseason. That deal for Buckner had a slightly higher value at $84 million, with a slightly higher average value at $21 million per year. Additionally, Buckner had a slightly higher number when it comes to full guarantees, but does have a higher total guarantee in case of injury.
However, while the absolute value and annual average value of Jones’ deal is slightly lower than that of the extension signed by Buckner, Jones has sack-based incentives in the deal that could see the value rise above that of Buckner’s deal. Jones has a total of $1.25 million per year in those sack-based incentives which would see the total value of the deal rise potentially as high $85 million with an average value of $21.25 million a year.
The impact of Jones’ deal for the Chiefs
The short-term impact
The Chiefs made it quite clear with the Mahomes deal that they were not willing to reduce their 2020 cap space to get these deals done. With just over $6 million in available cap space, the Chiefs need to retain that slim flexibility to cover injuries and potential preseason additions they team may need to make.
Therefore, the Chiefs have made sure that they do not use any of that space in the early parts of these new deals. However, what that does is push more money further back into the deal, with the next two seasons both counting over $20 million on the cap.
The long-term implications of Jones’ deal
The Chiefs do have a potential looming issue when it comes to their salary cap in 2021. With Jones’ deal now counting against the cap as guaranteed money, the Chiefs have $200 million in cap liabilities already for 2021. Given the reports of the cap remaining flat at around $200 million next season, already having that cap taken up with just 47 players signed is a concern.
Usually, a team in this situation may look at how much cap they can roll over from the current season. However, as discussed earlier, the Chiefs have just $6 million in cap space with which to roll over. Therefore, this deal for Jones may leave the Chiefs with some tough decisions to make in the 2021 season.
Some potential players that could be cut to open up cap space prior to the 2021 season include Travis Kelce, Mitchell Schwartz, Tyrann Mathieu and Tyreek Hill, who would open a combined $38 million in cap space.
This deal for Jones demonstrates that the Chiefs are all in on attempting to repeat as Super Bowl champions in 2021. NFL teams always find a way to create cap space so they will not be immediately concerned, but this deal does begin a process in which tough decisions are on the horizon in Kansas City.
Ben Rolfe is an editor and writer at Pro Football Network. You can find him on twitter @benrolfe15.