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Chris Jones Contract Analysis: What's Real in Massive KC Chiefs Deal?

Chris Jones and the Kansas City Chiefs have reportedly agreed to a long-term deal to keep Jones in KC for years to come. However, the details of Jones's contract show that the numbers aren't exactly what they seem at first glance.

The Kansas City Chiefs reportedly agreed to terms on a long-term contract with defensive tackle Chris Jones on Saturday night, securing the superstar defender's spot in the Chiefs' future — and in the team's quest for the NFL's first-ever three-peat. But the initial details of Jones's contract painted a slightly different picture than the real numbers revealed.

Chris Jones KC Chiefs Contract Details

Jones's new deal was originally reported as a five-year deal with "the highest average salary ever given to an NFL defensive tackle," according to Adam Schefter. A five-year deal would be surprising for Jones, who turns 30 in July. However, Schefter later clarified that "all the money in the first three years - $95 million - is guaranteed." That's the part that matters.

Chris Jones's new contract with the Chiefs appears to be essentially a three-year deal with $95 million guaranteed, worth $31.67 million per year on average.

This deal looks familiar, pulled directly from one of Jones's defensive tackle peers. In June 2022, the Los Angeles Rams agreed to a massive deal with Aaron Donald: three years, $95 million essentially guaranteed. (Donald's deal gave him $65 million guaranteed over the first two years with an option to return in 2024 for an additional guaranteed $30 million, per Ian Rapoport.) That deal covered Donald's age-31, 32, and 33 seasons. For Jones, his next three years will have him playing at age 30, 31, and 32. 

Is Chris Jones's extension good for the Chiefs?

Looking at the Aaron Donald deal puts this contract in perspective in a variety of ways.

  • The Chiefs essentially gave Jones the Donald deal, but got Jones one year younger.
  • It's pretty incredible that Jones has ascended to the point of earning "Aaron Donald money."
  • It's a ton of money for a non-quarterback, and three guaranteed years for the start of your 30s is a tremendous and rare thing for a player to land, especially from the Chiefs.

I'm not surprised that Jones got this deal this offseason, but I'm a little bit surprised he got it from Kansas City and general manager Brett Veach. After last year's negotiations broke down (and tumbled into the regular season), I didn't think the Chiefs would budge all the way beyond the $30 million mark annually, especially not while guaranteeing all three years.

On Friday, I wrote that a contract projection that essentially boiled down to a three-year, $90-95 million deal seemed unlikely to land Jones back in KC, considering the team's reluctance to sign older players to long-term deals. However, as is the case with 34-year-old teammate Travis Kelce, Jones isn't an ordinary player. 

Jones has been the best and most key defender of the Chiefs' still-in-progress dynasty, and it was hard to imagine them completing a potential three-peat without him at the center of the defense. Ultimately, I think the Chiefs are betting on Jones still being at the top of his game at age 30 and 31 before being a top-level but perhaps not one-of-one player at age 32. If Jones can hold that pace and the Chiefs bring home at least one Super Bowl in that stretch, both sides would get a fitting conclusion to Jones's tremendous Chiefs career.

With that path in mind, I think this deal is the best ending that both sides could have hoped for, even though I'm a bit surprised by the fully guaranteed age-32 season. If injuries or a significant drop-off hit Jones, KC will be operating with one hand tied behind their backs from a salary cap management perspective. If he stays healthy and productive, he'll be well worth the money.

One other smaller note worth keeping in mind: the NFL salary cap jumped $30 million this year and is projected to continue rising annually. As the cap increases, the later years of this deal (and all multi-year deals) will take up a smaller percentage of the cap than they did when the deals were signed. Teams and players know this, so it won't exactly be unexpected free money in the couch cushions as the cap rises, but it's worth noting as the Chiefs plan their future salaries.

Schefter also tweeted that "Jones’ deal will include the highest-ever average annual DT salary," but didn't announce numbers at the time of the publishing of this story. He also wrote that Jones would surpass Nick Bosa's $34 million annual salary, but that won't matter if all the guaranteed money is in the first three years. 

Sunday morning update: On Sunday morning, Rapoport tweeted that the deal is worth almost $160 million, with citing Rapoport and saying the deal should come in at $32 million per year. That would round out a five-year deal worth $160 million, which is still practically three years for $95 million guaranteed.

It's also worth noting that the fourth and fifth years would help spread out Jones's bonus while keeping his first-year cap hit low in 2024. It would mean the Chiefs will likely carry some dead cap hits in the fourth and fifth years of the deal, but that bonus would be spread out evenly across the five years of the deal, benefitting KC in the short-term while likely giving Jones a huge bonus at signing.

As long as the first three years are essentially all guaranteed and years four and five don't have significant amounts of guaranteed money (beyond a prorated bonus), feel free to ignore them. In the NFL, and in this deal especially, the guaranteed money is what matters.