KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have picked up communication with Chris Jones and his representatives in recent days, and general manager Brett Veach is optimistic the All-Pro defensive tackle will be on the field when the Super Bowl champions kick off the NFL regular season against Detroit next week.
Jones missed the entire summer workout period, a mandatory minicamp and all of training camp, racking up millions in fines for each day missed, as he sought a long-term contract that would put him among the highest-paid players at his position.
Jones is entering the final year of a four-year, $80 million contract that will pay him nearly $20 million this season.
“Actually just the last two days we've been in more communication. We're going to continue to press on and work hard,” Veach said Wednesday in a session with local reporters. “A lot of respect on both sides of this thing. It's been well-stated how we feel about Chris and he feels the same thing. We're just going to keep working on this thing.”
Jones has reportedly asked for more than $30 million annually, but less than Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who set the market with his three-year, $95 million contract. Other defensive tackles have signed lucrative deals this past offseason, including the Giants' Dexter Lawrence and the Commanders' Daron Payne, who signed for four years and $90 million; the Titans' Jeffrey Simmons signed at four years and $95 million; and the Jets' Quinnen Williams to four for $96 million.
As recently as last week, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said there had been “no communication” with Jones or his agents on a deal, and the star defensive tackle has been active on social media with cryptic messages that appeared to reference his holdout.
In one exchange with fans, Jones said he would be willing to report at Week 8 — and accrue more than $1 million in lost wages for each game he missed. When someone responded that it would be a hefty bill, Jones replied, “I can afford it.”
The Chiefs are under pressure to get Jones on the field. They already will be without Charles Omenihu, their best pass rusher, for the first six games after he was suspended by the NFL for violating its personal-conduct policy. That would leave their top pass rushers as second-year pro George Karlaftis and unproven first-round pick Felix Anudike Uzomah.
“We're just going to keep working on this thing,” Veach said of a deal with the 29-year-old Jones, who matched a career high with 15 1/2 sacks last season. “We're looking forward to next Thursday and hopefully he's in the lineup and ready to go.”
Veach also is optimistic that wide receiver Kadarius Toney and cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, both of whom missed the majority of camp, and defensive tackle Turk Wharton would be on the field for the Sept. 7 opener against the Lions.
Toney, who is being counted upon to fill the void created by the loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman in free agency, had surgery about a month ago for a partially torn meniscus in his knee. Toney has been prone to injuries throughout his career, but he was dynamic when healthy after arriving in a midseason trade from the Giants last season.
Sneed has been one of the Chiefs' best cornerbacks, and a veteran presence in the defensive backfield. But he also has dealt with his share of injuries, and constant swelling in his own knee has kept him off the practice field for about a month.
Wharton returned to the field for the end of the preseason after having surgery for a torn ACL in his own knee.
“They'll be on the 53-(man roster),” Veach said, “and again, I don't want to speak for the coaches or (trainer) Rick (Burkholder), but they have a good chance to be where they need to be Week 1. I'll let Rick make those decisions, him and the players.”
The Chiefs, who trimmed their roster to the NFL limit on Tuesday, were busy at the waiver-claiming deadline Thursday. They lost defensive back Kahlef Hailassie to the Browns but claimed cornerback Darius Rush from the Colts.
His addition came after the Chiefs swung a late trade with the AFC West-rival Raiders the previous day, sending a sixth-round pick to acquire defensive tackle Neil Farrell Jr. A fourth-round pick of the Raiders last year, Farrell can fill a void on the defensive front — with or without Jones — by providing a big, run-stopping presence.
“The plan any time you add someone on the defensive line is they can be a complete player,” Veach said, “but right off the bat, he's a bigger body. That's something we put an emphasis on. That picked up late yesterday and we worked though it kind of quick.”
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
Dave Skretta, The Associated Press