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The Chiefs Have 3 Big Contract Question Marks Looming

The Chiefs need to address the contracts of certain players soon. With the cap space to pay them, are they worth it?
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The Kansas City Chiefs are currently the No. 1 seed in the AFC and are in a great position to push for the Super Bowl title. While the coaches and players are doing well on the actual football side of things, the front office has upcoming decisions to prepare for. 

Multiple key players are either scheduled to be free agents at the end of this year or only have one year remaining on their respective contracts. As a result, the Chiefs will have to decide what those players are worth and potentially try to come to an agreement to keep them in Kansas City. Let's take a look at three of them.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Chiefs added JuJu Smith-Schuster this offseason on an incentive-based one-year deal, and he's playing his way into a more significant long-term deal. Smith-Schuster has caught 46 passes for 615 yards and two touchdowns through nine games, good enough to rank in the top 30 in the NFL in receptions and top 15 in yards. Does his success in Kansas City put him out of what the Chiefs are willing to pay, though?

Nov 13, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (9) celebrates alongside tight end Travis Kelce (87) during the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

When looking at the wide receiver free agent market, Smith-Schuster is the best one available this coming offseason. Christian Kirk was the highest-paid wide receiver on the open market last year, and he received a four-year contract with an average salary of $18 million. Smith-Schuster's numbers will be better than Kirk's were when he hit the market, but will teams around the league think it's a product of playing with the best quarterback in the league?

The best way for the Chiefs to retain a player they seem to like and who has expressed his desire to stay with the organization is not to let him hit the open market. If Smith-Schuster enters free agency, some team will offer him a contract that will be viewed as an "overpay." The Chiefs may not be comfortable paying that amount for his services. To prevent that from happening, Kansas City should get an extension done with Smith-Schuster before the beginning of the new league year. A deal somewhere in the $13-17M range seems fair for a player of his caliber.

Orlando Brown Jr.

The biggest offseason question for the Chiefs last year will still be the biggest question this year: How will they handle the Orlando Brown Jr. contract situation?

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To say Brown has underperformed this season is somehow an understatement. According to Pro Football Focus, he has given up the most pressure of any tackle in the NFL. Also, he is in the bottom 15% for pressure rate allowed of players with at least 240 passing blocking snaps. It's not like he's been excellent in the run game to compensate for his poor pass protection, either. PFF has him graded as the fourth-best starting offensive lineman on the Chiefs as a run blocker.

Oct 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown (57) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Brown bet on himself by not accepting the Chiefs' long-term offer this offseason. Frankly, that looks like a poor decision at the moment. He is only 26 years old and has shown a tendency to improve throughout the year, so his play may take a step up. However, are the Chiefs willing to pay top-of-the-market money to someone who starts the season off poorly?

When you get paid at or near the top of your position, there is an expectation of being your best on a consistent basis. Brown hasn't shown he can do that. The Chiefs know they have the franchise tag in their back pocket to allow them to keep Brown around while trying to find a solution. They may try to offer a mid-level deal that is more team-friendly because of how he has performed over the start of this season. Without a significant improvement, this most likely resolves in the Chiefs placing the franchise tag on the left tackle and having an offseason filled with questions surrounding their future with him.

Chris Jones

Chris Jones is not like Smith-Schuster or Brown, as he is not playing on an expiring deal, but this is a pseudo-contract year. His current contract runs through 2023, although the Chiefs could cut him this offseason and save $20M against the cap. With how the star defensive lineman has played this year, though, the Chiefs should most likely look to get an extension done.

Jones has been the league's second-best interior defensive lineman for a couple of years but never quite got the recognition he deserved because of Aaron Donald. This year, Jones has been the best defensive tackle in the league through 10 weeks. He is top 10 in sacks and top 15 in quarterback pressures and is well on his way to an All-Pro selection. He is also a possible Defensive Player of the Year candidate, boasting the seventh-best Vegas odds for the award as of the publishing of this article.

Oct 2, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (95) reacts after recovering a fumble against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Jones is in the same boat Tyreek Hill was in last year. There is a chance Jones gets traded for draft capital as the Chiefs continue to get younger, but he and Hill are different. Jones is the Chiefs' defensive line. If he's no longer here, Kansas City has significant question marks at an already weak position group. Hill was one of the most critical players on the offense, but at some point, his demands were no longer worth it to the Chiefs. They felt they could replace his production differently.

The market for defensive tackles is interesting because Donald makes $10M more than the next-closest player. If Donald is the exception and not the rule, a reasonable deal can be worked out between the Chiefs and Jones for around $22-25M a year, keeping the stud pass rusher in Kansas City for years to come.