Against seemingly daunting odds, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to lock up star defensive lineman Chris Jones to a long-term deal to keep him in Kansas City for years to come.
Just a day before the deadline to agree to a long-term deal with a franchise-tagged player, the Chiefs and Jones agreed to a four-year deal worth $80 million with $5 million in additional incentives. This contract, with incentives, just slightly edges out the total contract the Indianapolis Colts gave former San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner earlier this offseason. Let’s look at Chris Jones' contract and its long-reaching implications.
Contract numbers via www.overthecap.com
The table above illustrates how Jones’ contract is laid out, as reported by ProFootballTalk and Mike Florio. There are many interesting aspects to Jones’ contract that makes it an oddball in today’s NFL.
2020 Cap Hit
On March 16 of 2020, the Chiefs franchised Jones with a franchise tag worth $16.1 million. This large cap hit was one of the main reasons the Chiefs eventually went all the way down to $177 in cap space.
The Chiefs are now sitting at a comfortable $6.22 million in cap space according to Over The Cap, and that might be why the Chiefs kept Chris Jones’ cap hit the exact same in 2020 as it was when Jones was still on the franchise tag. With few things left to do this off-season before the season starts, taking on as much of the contract as possible this year is smart. This was not the only smart thing the Chiefs did in Jones’ contract, however.
No Signing Bonus
High-profile contracts like Jones’ almost always have signing bonuses. Jones' does not.
As previously discussed in my Art of NFL Contracts series, signing bonuses are guaranteed money that can be spread out over the length of the contract up to five years. Usually, players like getting signing bonuses because the bonus pays out within a few months of signing and the signing bonus give the player some securities in the long-term.
Jones and his agents decided to forgo these benefits. Instead, Jones opted for guaranteed base salaries in 2020 and 2021, which were guaranteed at signing. 2022’s base salary will be guaranteed sometime during the 2021 offseason, with the exact date to be determined. This lack of a signing bonus leads to the last reason why Jones’ contract is an oddball.
No Guaranteed Money in 2023
All $20 million of Jones’ 2023 salary is not guaranteed.
Due to Jones’ contract having no signing bonus, this means that the last year of Jones’ contract will leave the Chiefs with zero dead cap if they cut or trade Jones. What this means, effectively, is that the Chiefs have a $20 million team option to keep Jones for the 2023 season. This gives the Chiefs serious flexibility in year four of Jones’ contract, which is important for one half-a-billion-dollar-sized reason.
2023 happens to be the first year Patrick Mahomes’ contract extension passes $40 million in a given year. It is important, starting from this year, that the Chiefs tread lightly when it comes to contracts given out, and the timeline fits perfectly with the end of Jones’ deal. If the Chiefs cap situation looks to be in good shape, they can afford to keep Jones. If the Chiefs cap situation looks to be in poor shape, they have immense flexibility with Jones’ contract to do whatever they want. This could manifest in the Chiefs cutting Jones, trading him, or extending him again.
Flexibility is the theme with Jones’ contract with the Chiefs. Having no signing bonus and no guaranteed money in the final year gives the Chiefs much-needed flexibility. Mahomes gave the Chiefs this flexibility with his new contract, letting the Chiefs keep an all-pro player. Jones got the big payday and security he desired, with basically $60 million guaranteed over just three years.
Chiefs GM Brett Veach did a fantastic job in planning with Jones’ contract and somehow kept two great players in the long-term plans while not mortgaging the future. For that reason, Veach, Mahomes, and Jones should all be commended for how they handled the situation to make it run as smoothly as possible.
With the final piece in place, the CEO of Sack Nation returning, it’s time for the Chiefs to Run It Back.