The man ranked as the top defensive free agent in the NFL is one the Kansas City Chiefs hope to have playing in their uniform next season.
After all, it’s the only uniform Chris Jones has worn to date.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach stated Tuesday at the NFL Combine that the team is willing to do all it can to re-sign the four-year defensive tackle.
“It’s certainly a priority for us,” Veach said of re-signing Jones, ranked as the No. 2 free agent behind quarterback Dak Prescott, via NFL.com. “Sometimes these things take time to work through.
“The franchise tag is something that we have the ability to use. We’d certainly would like to see if we can work something out with him and I think the tandem of Chris Jones and Frank Clark is something any team would want and we’re going to work hard to see if we can get that done.”
Veach added the Chiefs are scheduled to meet with Jones’ representatives during the combine in Indianapolis. While the franchise tag could be in play for a one-year deal of mor than $16 million, a likely bargain to a yearly salary Jones could command of up to $20 million.
The team failed to agree to a long-term deal prior to the 2019 season, and Jones was absent all offseason until arriving ahead of training camp in St. Joseph.
“Chris did a great job of blocking all that out and really attacking the season,” Veach said. “He handled that like a true pro. Now we’ve got the opportunity once this cycle comes back around to pick up where those conversations left off and hopefully we can make headway and get something done.”
Jones is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he totaled nine sacks one season after tallying 15.5. He also played a huge role in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win over the 49ers, controlling the line of scrimmage at critical points in the team’s 31-20 victory.
The five-year deal signed by defensive end Frank Clark last offseason makes the deal tougher for the Chiefs.
“It’s always a challenge, but I think when you have guys as talented as Chris and these other players, you’re gonna turn over every scenario and just see what exactly can be done,” Veach said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s not impossible.”
Clark’s contract is the third largest among defensive lineman at $104 million, though the 2019 cap hit was only $6.5 million. That number jumps to $22.7 million in 2020, but the team has a potential out following the 2021 year.
Amid speculation of a possible release of Sammy Watkins, or restructuring of his deal, Veach also doubled down his hopes of the wide receiver playing again in Kansas City.
“He’s a guy that we do want back, and again, these are good problems to have. You win a Super Bowl, you obviously have a lot of good players and they make a lot of money,” Beach said. “Sammy’s a guy who ... has been critical to our playoff success.”
Meetings with Watkins’ team are scheduled for this week, as the wide receiver is due more than $21 million in the final season of a three-year deal. Cutting the Clemson product, however, could increase the team’s cap space by $14 million. The Chiefs currently hold $16 million in cap space, the third fewest in the league, according the Spotrac.
Watkins left all possibilities on the table before Super Bowl LIV, noting a willingness to take a pay cut or even sit out the 2020 season.
In 2019, Watkins caught 52 passes for 673 yards and three touchdowns, adding 288 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs.
The list of free agents extends well beyond Jones for the Chiefs. Among the likes of cornerback Kendall Fuller, defensive tackle Mike Pennel, guard Stefen Wisniewski and backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Chad Henne, Veach and his staff will sit down with all available options as the team attempts to build its 2020 roster.
“Yeah, it’s a busy week,” Veach said. “That’s what makes it fun, and then you throw in all the young prospects you get to watch this week, we’re excited about getting after it.”