Why Won’t the Chiefs Pay Chris Jones?

The Kansas City Chiefs are running into a dilemma with their star defensive lineman, Chris Jones, who was the Defensive Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl LIV. Per Jones’ Twitter account, he’s threatening to sit the entire 2020 NFL season.

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The Chiefs are already in a tight salary cap bind. They have the impending contract of superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who will not be leaving Kansas City at the conclusion of his rookie contract, and people like defensive end Frank Clark, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and offensive tackle Eric Fisher on seven-figure contracts per season. The core of the team, outside of Jones, is under contract for the next several years.

The NFL salary cap has been generously rising each and every season. The business has been phenomenal across the league with the television and other business contracts that it has worked out. There is no denying the success that the league has seen up to this point. However, there are concerns that with the COVID-19 virus affecting the economy, that teams are anticipating at least a $40,000,000 decrease in the salary cap in 2021, according to Ian Rapoport.

YearSalary Cap
2011$120,000,000
2012$120,600,000
2013$123,000,000
2014$133,000,000
2015$143,280,000
2016$155,270,000
2017$167,000,000
2018$177,200,000
2019$188,200,000
2020$198,200,000
Annual NFL Salary Cap Table from 2011-2020.

Anticipating the drop in the Salary Cap

At least $40,000,000 is a drastic number. A drop of that magnitude would immediately put half of the league over the salary cap just to start the 2021 offseason. The Chiefs would be one of those teams and that’s without Patrick Mahomes under contract.

So where does that put Jones, who is worth the money that he’s asking for?

Jones is in a situation where he has two options: take the money that the Chiefs offer and play football under that long term contract. It won’t be much, because the Chiefs already can’t afford to keep him. Or, sit out a year and try to take a contract on with a team with lots of salary cap space that can afford to pay him the contract that he wants.

Oct 28, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones (95) celebrates after sacking Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum (4) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Jones mentioned Le’Veon Bell, the former Steelers running back who sat out the entire 2018 season to become a free agent and signed a large four-year deal with the New York Jets. It was closer to the number Bell had wanted then the Steelers had offered, and he ended up with $27,000,000 guaranteed.

Essentially, Jones has to make a decision about what he wants. If he wants money now, he can work out a long term deal with the Chiefs before July 15th. If he wants to make a set amount of money, he can probably make all of that in the 2021 offseason. After all, even with a $40,000,000 cut in the salary cap, there are seven NFL teams who would still have substantial cap to purchase him next offseason to upgrade their defensive line.

It appears that Jones is leaning toward not playing in 2020.