We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.
2019 in review
Chris Jones’ 2019 season helped him solidify his spot as the most sought after free agent on the defensive side of the ball in 2020. He was the anchor of the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive line and made his first Pro Bowl after being named a second-team All-Pro in 2018. He tallied nine sacks last season while spending time at defensive end and defensive tackle.
Jones has versatility and age on his side and is an optimal choice to be the star of most defensive units in the NFL. The 25-year-old is just reaching his prime, and having the flexibility to play on the interior or outside is a valuable. Any team with the money to make it work will likely target Jones.
The Indianapolis Colts should have the second most cap space ($86 million) in the NFL for 2020 and needs to upgrade its front four. Indianapolis can afford to give Jones the major payday he wants while also providing him adequate assistance with former Chiefs defensive end Justin Houston and linebacker Darius Leonard. Reuniting with a familiar face could be enticing to Jones. The two combined for 24.5 sacks in 2018.
Another team with a ton of cap space is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($79 million). They fielded the best run-stopping unit in the league on defense last season and finished top 10 in sacks (47). But Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul are entering free agency as well and might need to be replaced. How much the Buccaneers are willing to spend in order to maintain a strong defensive front remains to be seen though.
Do the Chiefs want to keep him?
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has made it clear that re-signing Jones is a “priority” earlier this week, and on Thursday, Ian Rapoport reported that the team will use the franchise tag on Jones. Jones tweeted in early-February that he wants to stay in Kansas City for another decade. Both sides want the same thing, but Jones is supposedly targeting a contract that would play him around $20 million per year.
Jone’s efforts helped Kansas City turn its defense around. His pressure up front allowed the team to finish top 5 in fantasy production in 2019. Kansas City shouldn’t be a top 10 team on defense if Jones walks. It’d likely be a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of defensive productivity. Jones individual numbers don’t pop off the stat sheet, but he should comfortably be a top 20 defensive lineman regardless of where he lands.
Plenty of teams should be interested in Jones, but it appears like teams are waiting to see whether he hits the open market to be public about it. He is expected to be tagged, but Pro Football Focus suggested this could line up a tag-and-trade deal similar to what they did with Dee Ford last season.