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The realistic options for DI Chris Jones and the Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are defending Super Bowl champions for the first time in 50 years. The offense is guided by head coach Andy Reid and executed almost to perfection by quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The defense, after being one of the worst units in the NFL in 2018, rose to 16th in the league in 2019 and was good enough to stop the 49ers on four consecutive drives to close out their championship run. 

However, the goal for the Chiefs has to be winning multiple titles, and the decisions they make over the next few months will go a long way towards that goal. Mahomes is eligible for a contract extension, many players in his supporting cast are set to become free agents or cap casualties and unrestricted free agents Bashaud Breeland, Terrell Suggs, Reggie Ragland, Kendall Fuller and Mike Pennel are all solid role players on the defense, and all helped the team make those aforementioned defensive improvements.

And then there's Chris Jones. A favorite of our own Mike Renner at this time in 2016, the second-round pick out of Mississippi State has emerged as one of the best interior players in the entire NFL, racking up 224 total pressures, 88 stops and being involved in 33 sacks over his four years in the league. Only three interior defenders have added more to their team in terms of wins above replacement than Jones.

Chris Jones: PFF War and rank since 2016
Season PFF WAR PFF WAR rank among DI
2016 0.12 17th
2017 0.14 14th
2018 0.20 4th
2019 0.17 4th

[Editor's note: Available to all of PFF's EDGE and ELITE subscribers, PFF's Free Agent Rankings Page consists of three-year grades, PFF WAR and in-depth analysis for all of the top NFL free agents. Contract information from our friends at Over The Cap is also available. Subscribe today for access!]

We discussed true pass-rush snaps yesterday, and after adjusting for play-level context, Jones was better than all free-agent pass-rushers in 2019. He batted down two passes and earned a key pressure that led to an interception in Kansas City's Super Bowl victory, despite being slowed by an injury late in the season.

The Chiefs are in a tough spot, though, with Mahomes' contract coming up, only about $14 million in cap space (which could more than double with some cuts) and only five draft picks come April. After spending early-round picks on players like Tanoh Kpassagnon, Breeland Speaks, Derrick Nnadi and Khalen Saunders in the last three drafts and trading two high draft picks and giving $105 million to Frank Clark, there's likely not enough resources to make a realistic long-term offer to Jones. Even if the Chiefs view Jones as a better asset to their team than Clark, trading Clark would likely net a lower return and cost them upwards of $20 million in dead money, per Brad Spielberger of OverTheCap and PFF. However, the Chiefs are not entirely powerless in this situation. Here, we go over their realistic options. 

Jan 19, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (95) and linebacker Anthony Hitchens (53) celebrate a play against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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