We’re into the second week of free agency, and for the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, it’s been a quiet ride. Gone are starters Kendall Fuller and Stefen Wisniewski, and in are Mike Remmers and former XFL star Jordan Ta’amu. Sammy Watkins and his big ($21 million) cap number remain on the roster, while the Chiefs' ability to do much else is hampered substantially by having under $400,000 in cap space per our friends at OverTheCap.
The elephant in the room, as it has been since the end of the season, is star interior lineman Chris Jones, the fourth-most valuable defensive tackle in the NFL since he entered the league as a second-round pick in 2016. As we wrote about last month, the Chiefs were a bit hamstrung with options for retaining Jones prior to when free agency started, as he was reportedly commanding Aaron Donald ($22.5 million APY) money and a long-term deal. The Chiefs already invested two draft picks and a five-year, $105.7 million last offseason into edge player Frank Clark, further complicating matters.
As such, Kansas City applied the franchise tag to Jones ($16.1 million) and were likely trying to trade him to a defense-needy team for a draft pick in the late first round or early second round. Such designs were thwarted a bit early last week, when the Indianapolis Colts traded the 13th-overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers for DeForest Buckner and then promptly gave him a deal worth $84 million over four years. Where it matters most, Jones is a better player than Buckner, putting up five more pressures on more than 300 fewer pass-rushing snaps than the former Oregon Duck, while playing on a far less-talented defensive line. Thus, a reasonable valuation of Jones would be $21 million APY and a top-15 pick after this move, neither of which is likely to be realized. So what should they do?
Ignore the Colts' deal for Buckner
Markets tend toward efficiency, but the market for NFL players is a) not stationary, b) not big and c) not necessarily made up of completely rational actors. While we like the overall direction of the Colts under Chris Ballard, the Buckner deal was an overpay both in terms of draft-pick compensation and contract. George Chahrouri and I left all interior defenders off our analytics mock, and for good reason: Interior players do not provide the value play-for-play that mirrors even edge players, and coverage is more valuable than the play of both. The same applies to handing out big contracts to interior players: don’t do it.