KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs’ Travis Kelce is imploring fellow All-Pro Chris Jones to end his holdout, which the defensive tackle has carried through training camp and right into the preparations for Kansas City’s opener next week against the Detroit Lions.
On his New Heights podcast with his brother, Philadelphia Eagles centre Jason Kelce, the Chiefs tight end said “I don’t get it” in reference to Jones’ holdout. Jones is entering the final year of his $80-million, four-year contract and has been looking for a long-term deal that would make him the second-highest paid defensive tackle in the league.
“Chris, you’re really scaring me, man. Can you please come back?” Kelce said on the podcast. “You must know something I don’t know because I just don’t get it. I really want to win another Super Bowl ring with you, brother.
“This is me bargaining with you to just come back and play football for the Chiefs.”
After a long period of little communication, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said this week that talks had picked up between the club and Jones’ representatives. Veach even said he is “certainly hopeful” that Jones would report to the Chiefs in time to be available for Thursday night’s NFL opener against Detroit at Arrowhead Stadium.
Time is running out, though. The Chiefs’ coaching staff began game-week preparations Friday, and the bulk of their game plan will be introduced during practices Sunday and Monday before a lighter workout Tuesday.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid was asked Friday about Jones’ holdout and whether it could lead to locker room dissension.
“Listen, everybody makes their own decisions. That’s the way it is in life. That’s the way it is in football,” Reid replied. “Certain guys do it one way. Certain guys do it another way. Chris has chosen to go this route; some other guys have chosen to get their deals done and come in and play. I’m not here to criticize one way or another.”
The Chiefs could certainly use Jones on the field. The 29-year-old defensive tackle had 15 1/2 sacks for them last season to lead an otherwise modest pass rush, helping Kansas City win its second Vince Lombardi Trophy in the past four years.
“He’s the best defensive player in the league right now,” Travis Kelce said. “He’s deserving of all the money in the world.”
Because he is under contract, Jones has been piling up millions in fines during his holdout. That includes $50,000 for each day he missed during a mandatory minicamp and training camp, bonus money and game checks of about $1.1 million apiece.
Asked by a fan on social media how long he was willing to hold out, Jones replied “Week 8,” which would be the latest he could arrive to earn an accrued season. When told that would be a hefty bill, Jones replied: “I can afford it.”
Whether the Chiefs can afford him under his current contract is another matter.
They are getting salary cap relief because Jones does not count while he’s on the reserve/did not report list. But that changes the moment he arrives, when his salary hit would potentially put Kansas City over the cap. If he agreed to a long-term deal, the sides could structure it in a way that the Chiefs would have some financial flexibility for the rest of this season.
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“It’s an ongoing thing,” said Reid, declining to say whether he’s gotten involved in the negotiations. “Obviously my focus is on what we’ve got here, and you guys have been around me long enough to know how I roll with that. I let Brett do his job, and his guys over there — I have full trust in them and the way they’re going about it.”
In the meantime, the Chiefs are preparing to play Detroit without arguably the best player on their defense. If Jones does report in the coming days, Reid echoed his GM in saying that there’s a chance he could be on the field Thursday night.
“One thing about Chris is he keeps him in good shape,” Reid said. “As long as he’s in relatively good shape, you work him in and get him playing, and you play it by ear and eyes and see where he is after that.”