INDIANAPOLIS — With his shoulder pads and jersey still in place, and a crisp new commemorative hat serving as the crown of a two-time Super Bowl champion, Chris Jones smiled for several minutes as he discussed his emotions following the Chiefs’ win over Philadelphia. Eagles on the NFL’s biggest stage. Jones’ smile then changed to a serious facial expression as he shared his biggest wish for the Chiefs’ offseason.
“I really think we may be able to compete for another one again,” Jones said of the Chiefs’ chances of continuing their dynasty. “It’s a special team. We keep that core together, keep Frank Clark, keep him and I together, I think we can be very, very special.
Once again, one of the major subplots for the Chiefs over the next few weeks is whether they can keep their pass-rushing duo of Jones and Clark going. Both players are on the Chiefs’ salary cap sheet for the 2023 campaign, but are in the final year of their contracts and have a cap of more than $28 million, according to Over The Cap.
At the Chiefs’ annual State of the Franchise event on Tuesday, the opening day of the league’s annual scouting suit, general manager Brett Veach acknowledged that one of the most complex elements of the The team’s multi-faceted offseason plan – which can be changed by a single trade or trade – finds the best path that leads to signing new contracts with Jones and Clark while having enough flexibility when it comes to salary cap to improve other areas on the list.
“The good thing for us is that we have these strong connections with these players who have been playing here for a long time,” Veach said Tuesday of Jones and Clark. “They love being here. This is a good starting point for us. The links we have with these players, and the fact that we have a long experience with them, help us win more time.
And yet, Veach said the Chiefs’ first domino to have a successful spring didn’t involve Jones or Clark.
Instead, Veach mentioned star left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. The Chiefs have until 3:00 p.m. Tuesday to decide whether they want to place the franchise tag on Brown before the league deadline. Such a move, however, will force chiefs to create salary cap space. One of the most logical ways to accomplish such a task is to release Clark before 3:00 p.m. CT on March 15, the start of free agency. Clark’s release would create $21 million in salary cap space while taking a $7.6 million cap in dead money, according to Over The Cap.
If that possibility becomes a reality, Veach stressed the Chiefs will be competitive in the open market to re-sign Clark, the nine-year-old defensive end who led the team in the playoffs with 2 1/2 sacks and four hits. of the quarterback.
“We will probably, to some extent, need some space, but we also have a long history with (Clark) and his agent (Erik Burkhardt), Veach said. “He will be one of many conversations we’ll have this week and I’m looking forward to meeting him and seeing if we can come up with something that makes sense for both parties.”
As an eight-year veteran, Jones was the league’s top inside passer last season, producing 15 1/2 sacks and 29 quarterback hits, both figures matching career highs. He also played 916 snaps — 80% of the unit’s total snaps — the most among Chiefs defensive linemen. Jones is the top defender Veach wants to sign to a contract extension, a deal that will secure his services throughout his career while creating more salary cap space for the team.
Veach also feels the urgency to see if Jones is ready to negotiate and agree to a new contract before free agency begins. A year ago, Veach wanted to achieve a similar goal with superstar receiver Tyreek Hill, who was also entering the final year of his contract.
“I left here last year thinking we were going to get Tyreek (the deal) redone,” Veach said. “Things change quickly. The market usually dictates these things.
Just before free agency, the Chiefs offered Hill, the league’s fastest player, a lucrative extension that would have made him one of the highest-paid receivers in the league, possibly as high as the league. one of the top five in his post. But Hill wanted to be THE The highest paid receiver in the NFL. The conclusion of the deal came in the form of a blockbuster trade, as the Miami Dolphins acquired Hill and signed him to the contract he wanted. The deal trade netted the Chiefs five draft picks, which Veach used to improve and better balance the team’s roster.
This year, Jones, according to a league source, wants an extension that will make him at least the second highest player at his position. In June, Los Angeles Rams superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald signed a three-year, $95 million contract restructuring.
“We will definitely be having conversations with Chris and his agents (Jason Katz and Michael Katz),” Veach said. “Doing something with Chris would make sense for us, and I think Chris will want to stay here and take a chef out.”
Along with wanting to play his entire career with the Chiefs, Jones understands that a potential extension — one that’s structured in some way over three or four years — could be a critical mechanism for the team to have enough space. salary cap to keep Clark.
Superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes made a similar financial decision in July 2020, when he signed a 10-year, $477 million extension that could reach as much as $503 million through incentives, the biggest contract in sports history at the time. With his extension beginning after the 2021 season, Mahomes gave the Chiefs the option to sign Jones to a four-year, $80 million extension that could top out at $85 million through incentives just before the deadline. the league for franchise-tagged players.
“I want to keep very good football players around me,” Mahomes said then. “It’s not just one person. It’s about the team.
After a disappointing 2021 season, Clark made the team’s biggest financial sacrifice to stay on the roster. The team could have released Clark, which would have cleared $12.7 million. But Clark restructured his contract, cutting his base salary to $3.7 million in a move that helped the Chiefs create $12.6 million of space. He agreed to the deal after having a season-ending conversation with coach Andy Reid, who demanded that his veteran be a stronger leader for his teammates, whose words matched his actions.
Clark responded by being a dependable player in 15 regular season games and then produced his best production in the Chiefs playoffs. Reid’s exit meeting with Clark last month, which centered on the two men expressing their gratitude to one another, took place the same day as the Chiefs’ celebratory parade with fans in Kansas City.
“I love Frank,” Reid said Tuesday. “Frank is a top notch guy. I love him to death.”
At halftime of Super Bowl LVII, the Chiefs entered their locker room after a lackluster first half that ended 10 points behind the Eagles. Needing to regroup and refocus, Clark was one of the players, along with Mahomes and superstar tight end Travis Kelce, who used his voice to motivate and inspire their teammates.
“I said this to Chris: ‘We have to earn this s—; we have to win this game,’Clark said after the game. “This one just means a lot more to me because of the road here. I don’t care how many sacks, being third all-time in the playoffs. I don’t care about Playoff Frank. I just care about winning a Super Bowl and being the best teammate I can be.
(Photo by Frank Clark and Chris Jones: Cooper Neill/Getty Images)