KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chris Jones sees a few options for how — and where — he observes the Chiefs’ season-opening game Thursday night against the Detroit Lions.
He could be on the sideline, next to his teammates, the co-workers he hasn’t seen since the middle of June when the Chiefs were honored at the White House.
Another unlikely possibility, Jones said Wednesday, is that he could be in uniform with the rest of the Chiefs, which would mark a dramatic end to his holdout, the biggest story of the Kansas City offseason.
Perhaps the strongest outcome, according to league sources, is that Jones, the All-Pro defensive tackle, watches his teammates perform from a suite inside Arrowhead Stadium.
“We shall see,” said Jones, who made an appearance at Ronald McDonald House Kansas City as part of the Chiefs’ annual Red Wednesday fund-raising activities.
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Jones committed to making an appearance earlier this summer as part of his partnership with McDonald’s. Jones knew the net proceeds of the $10 red flags the Chiefs sold Wednesday would benefit Ronald McDonald House.
Before entering the building, Jones met with a large collection of reporters for a seven-minute news conference.
In rapid succession, Jones explained, as best he could, the intentions of his holdout. He said multiple times that he is asking for a raise, which is why he is seeking a lucrative contract extension. Jones said he hasn’t requested a trade and has no animosity toward club owner Clark Hunt, general manager Brett Veach or coach Andy Reid.
“If a deal gets done, I’d be out there tomorrow,” Jones said. “It’s always been my goal to be a Kansas City Chief for life. I’ve said that multiple times. They know where my position is at. Hopefully, we can get something worked out for the long term.”
According to a league source, the Chiefs last week offered Jones a two-year, fully guaranteed extension worth $54.5 million, which would pay him an average annual salary of $27.5 million in 2024 and 2025.
“They feel like this is what I deserve,” Jones said. “I feel I deserve more.”
— Nate Taylor (@ByNateTaylor) September 6, 2023
Jones became most passionate when asked about criticism he has received — from analysts, former players and fans — that he is letting his teammates down.
“How?!” he said. “Who are you letting down, for asking your boss for a raise? All I’m doing is asking for a raise.”
Entering the final year of his four-year, $80 million contract, Jones wants an extension that would pay him an average annual salary of $30 million, making him the second-highest-paid defensive tackle by a wide margin. Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams is the NFL’s highest-paid defensive tackle, having signed a three-year, $95 million contract restructure last summer. Quinnen Williams of the New York Jets is No. 2 after signing a four-year, $96 million contract extension last month with $66 million guaranteed.
If Jones’ holdout leads to him receiving the extension he desires, he would become the league’s third-highest-paid defensive player behind 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa, who agreed to a five-year, $170 million contract extension with $122.5 million guaranteed Wednesday, and Donald.
“We’re going to continue to press on and work hard,” Veach said last week. “(There is) a lot of respect on both sides. It’s been, obviously, well stated how we feel about Chris. He feels the same way. We’re looking forward to Thursday and hopefully, he’s in the lineup and he’s ready to go.”
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Last season, Jones led the Chiefs in sacks and quarterback hits by matching his career highs of 15 1/2 and 29, respectively. He played 916 snaps — 80 percent of the unit’s total snaps — the most among Chiefs defensive linemen.
But since July 21, Jones has accrued a fine of $2.25 million for the 45 days he has missed. Jones also forfeited a workout bonus of $500,000 before training camp for not participating in the Chiefs’ offseason program. If he is not available against the Lions, he will forfeit his weekly game check of $1,083,333.
At age 29, Jones understands this is likely his best opportunity to maximize his earning potential. While away from the Chiefs, Jones said he has been training in Miami, doing two workouts each day with Pete Bommarito, his longtime trainer.
“I’ve been keeping in contact with my teammates,” Jones said. “I’m still doing similar things that they do in training camp. We have a lot of new players. I miss (the camaraderie) aspect of it, but I’ll be ready to go when that time calls.
“I can play right now. I’m good.”
Jones said one reason he has stayed away from the Chiefs — holding out instead of holding in — is because he didn’t want to become a distraction for his teammates. Last month, Jones expressed on his X account, formerly Twitter, that his holdout could last until Week 8. That’s the latest he can report to the team and still earn an accrued season to fulfill the last year in his contract, which would make him an unrestricted free agent next spring if he and the Chiefs cannot agree to a new deal. If that occurs, Jones acknowledged for the first time in his holdout that this season could be his final in Kansas City.
“That’s an answer for Clark Hunt to make,” Jones said. “I asked for an extension. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been brought (to me) yet. We’ll just see where this goes. We’ve got a whole year ahead of us, and things change.
“Things can change in any amount of days. There’s 24 hours in a day, 24 hours for feelings to change, positions to change and situations to change.”
When asked for his message to Chiefs fans, Jones’ answer included a joke.
“Opinions are like buttholes — everybody’s got one and they all stink,” Jones said, smiling. “Some (fans) are going to like it, some are going to respect it and some are going to dislike it. You can’t make everybody happy, unfortunately.”
A few minutes later, though, Jones was greeted by plenty of smiles when he walked into Ronald McDonald House while holding a tray to deliver Big Macs to more than 40 families who were surprised to see him.
— Aaron Ladd (@aaronladdtv) September 6, 2023
In 90 minutes, Jones spent time with each family, chatting with parents, high-fiving children and putting his signature on many items — red flags, footballs, jerseys, T-shirts and ballcaps.
“I (wanted) to bring a smile to their faces and happiness in their heart,” Jones said. “Respectfully, I work for the Chiefs, and, most importantly, it’s about giving back to the community, the kids. Whatever is going on with the Chiefs is completely different from this right here.”
Walking toward the exit, Jones received a chorus of cheers and applause. One boy, wearing a white Chiefs jersey and red face mask, shouted: “See you, Chris!”
Jones, smiling, responded with four words.
“I love you guys.”
(Photo: Nate Taylor / The Athletic)
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