Shortly after quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed his recent contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs, he contacted teammate Chris Jones, who was also hoping for a new deal.
“Pat texted me and said, ‘Let’s get this thing done. I left some [money] on the table for you.’ That’s when I had that security that me and the Chiefs were going to work something out,” Jones said Monday.
Jones was right. The defensive tackle and the Chiefs agreed to a long-term contract a few days later. The deal could pay Jones as much as $85 million over the next four years.
The new contract allows Jones, 26, to continue his career with the Chiefs, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2016. It will also allow him to build his legacy as one of the NFL’s top pass-rushers. Jones led the Chiefs in sacks in each of the past two seasons, with 15.5 in 2018 and nine last year.
“For me, nothing’s changed,” Jones said. “It’s still about being the best I can be. It’s still about being the sack leader and being the defensive player of the year. I’m always pushing myself to new heights. … It’s about having a Hall of Fame career, getting a gold jacket.
“If somebody told me, ‘You could take $20 million or 20 sacks,’ I’d take the 20 sacks any day. That’s where my mind is, where my heart is: getting sacks, winning championship rings, having fun, enjoying the process. That’s where I’m at right now. I love sacks with a passion. I love pass rushing. I could wake up every day and I could pass rush every day. It’s my passion, it’s my dream, it’s my goal. It’s the love of my life.”
For those reasons, the Chiefs felt comfortable in giving Jones the long-term contract he has long wanted.
“Over the last few years, Chris has really proven to be an elite player at his position and really one of the best defensive players in the National Football League,” general manager Brett Veach said. “For how much he’s already accomplished on the field, we certainly feel he’s just scratching the surface with his age and talent.”
It took some time for the Chiefs and Jones to get there. Jones held out from offseason practice last year in the hope of getting a new contract then, though he reported on time for training camp even though it didn’t happen.
The sides initially couldn’t reach an agreement this year, so the Chiefs kept Jones off the free-agent market by making him their franchise player. The long-term agreement wasn’t reached until last week. The Chiefs first had to clear salary-cap space (they at one point had $177 to work with under the cap) and then conclude negotiations with Mahomes on his 10-year extension, all amid a pandemic.
The Chiefs proceeded slowly with the contracts for Mahomes and Jones because of uncertainty with regard to the levels of future salary caps.
“We certainly had some obstacles to overcome,” Veach said. “We were driven and determined this whole time. … Our plan was to do a lot of the things that we’ve done this offseason, but right at the top of that list were Pat Mahomes and Chris Jones.
“That’s why this took some time. We were just trying to go through all of the scenarios. We don’t know where the cap is going to be, but we have to have plans ready and in place whether it grows [or] stays the same [or] dips. … We have enough game-planning in place to protect ourselves and we felt good.”