As a reply to a NFL segment on the lack of progress on a long term extension for Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, Jones himself chimed in with his own thoughts as to what will happen if he doesn’t get a new deal.
Or I won’t play. @LeVeonBell told me about this— Chris Jones (@StoneColdJones) July 1, 2020
Bell’s refusal to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018 was one of the most hotly debated subjects of the year with various opinions on the pros and cons (from me it was mainly cons) of sitting out. However there is one key difference in Jones’ situation when compared to Bell’s- how many times he has been tagged.
When Bell sat out in 2018 he had already played the 2017 season as a franchise player. Because of that the Steelers would have had to pay him at the QB franchise rate if they opted to tag him in 2019, which was a number that nobody is going to pay to any non-QB. While they could have transitioned tagged him at a lower number that type of tag does not prevent a player from getting legit offers in free agency the way a franchise tag effectively blocks free agency. So while one can certainly argue the logic in sitting out a year there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Because Jones is on his first tag, the Chiefs would still have the right to tag him again next year at a reasonable rate rather than the QB tag number which is what set Bell free. The only difference for Jones next year would be that the tag would only carry a 1st and 3rd round pick as compensation compared to two 1st round picks if he signed elsewhere. That is still a steep cost to another franchise and probably takes at least half the NFL out of the bidding process. Essentially he would have to sit for two seasons to get to the same place Bell was and that is an incredibly long time.
The franchise tag pretty much stinks for good players. I completely understand why it wasn’t a focus of the recent CBA negotiations since it only hampers a few players a year but it creates a bit of a bizarre system where if you are too good but not indispensable you can end up losing money in the long term while lesser players get the riches of free agency right away.
The tag was meant to be a way to keep a team from being torn apart in free agency and losing its most notable players who were considered the face of a franchise. With teams carrying so much salary cap space now its just used as a tool to keep players for a season or two that the team has no real desire to do a long term deal with. Between free agent movement being so common and far better cap managed contracts by teams it really has no place in the game other than to protect losing a quarterback.
July 15 is the deadline to do a long term deal with a franchise player. Jones’ should be looking for a contract in the $21-$22M per year range and I’m not sure the Chiefs are looking to go there, though we have seen last minute deals happen before.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.