The Chiefs should pay Chris Jones whatever he wants

The Chiefs should pay Chris Jones whatever he wants

Kansas City Chiefs’ all-world defensive tackle Chris Jones is currently in the midst of a holdout while he and the team attempt to restructure his contract. Jones, 29, has one year left on his contract at $19.5 million, and it’s clear that he wants to be among the highest paid defensive tackles in the league. He deserves it.

According to Spotrac, Jones is eighth in average yearly salary, a massive drop from when he initially signed his $80 million extension in 2020. The outlook for his return without a deal hasn’t been promising, with Jones taking to Twitter to say that he’ll hold out until at least week eight, and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid being very blunt about where contract talks are.

In reality, this is extremely simple to figure out: the Chiefs should hand Chris Jones a blank check and tell him to put down any number he wants. He’s that damn good, and means that much to the Chiefs defense.

In 2022, you could argue that no defensive player meant more to the overall success of a defense than Chris Jones and the Chiefs. You can count the individual stats if you want: first in pressure rate among defensive tackles, first in snaps played, first in ESPN’s pass rush win rate, first in wins vs double teams and first sacks created vs double teams. He’s very good in his own right. What makes this even more important is that Chris Jones makes literally everyone on the defense better with his presence on the field. This table is from Sports Information Solutions On/Off reports:

Chris Jones is Good

Chiefs defense splits EPA/play EPA/rush EPA/pass Pressure Rate
Chiefs defense splits EPA/play EPA/rush EPA/pass Pressure Rate
With Chris Jones -0.08 -0.14 -0.05 36.40%
Without Chris Jones 0.05 0.07 0.05 32%

Yeah, this isn’t complicated. The Chiefs defense is great with Chris Jones on the field. Without Jones on the field, the Chiefs defense is very bad.

That kind of crater in value can’t be saved by a stopgap guy they sign to replicate that void in the middle of the defense. Not only that, but Jones turns up his motor in the most important moments of the game. Among all defensive tackles in the 4th quarter with at least 100 pass rush snaps, Jones is first in pressure rate, total pressures, sacks, and hurries. He is at his best when the team needs him the most, and has been a crucial part of the Chiefs’ dominance in the AFC.

In addition, it’s not like the Chiefs have to pay more impact players on that defense. L’Jarius Sneed, Willie Gay and Nick Bolton will be free agents in 2024 and 2025, but the rest of the players on that defense are still on rookie deals and won’t have to be paid anytime soon. Plus, in 2024 the Chiefs are 11th in cap space per Spotrac, and Jones should be able to get some of that money. The entire reason that QB Patrick Mahomes and TE Travis Kelce structured their contracts the way they did is to extend the title window and so they could pay impact players on the other side of the ball…like Chris Jones.

While I understand the ambivalence behind paying a DT who’s about to be 30, Chris Jones put together his best year of football last year, and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. The Chiefs defense is centered around what Chris Jones can do, especially up front. The pass rush unit is designed to push the pocket, not bend around the pocket. Jones’ ability to win across the defensive line unlocks everyone else on that defense and allows DC Steve Spagnuolo to get creative on money downs.

Jones is as important to the Chiefs’ defense as Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are to the Chiefs’ offense. He should be paid as such.

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