By Matt Derrick
The Chiefs have a seemingly tough decision looming this offseason regarding potential free-agent defensive tackle Chris Jones but general manager Brett Veach made it clear he wants to see Jones back in a Kansas City uniform in 2020.
“I would say that it would be a priority for us to make that happen,” Veach said during his appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday. “What transpires in the next few weeks or months is to be determined but certainly our goal and our intent is to keep him in Kansas City.”
Jones sat out last year’s offseason program as his camp discussed a long-term extension with the Chiefs. Talks continued after Jones reported for training camp but little progress took place once the season began.
“Chris did a great job of blocking all that and just really tackling the season,” Veach said. “He handled it like a true pro. Now we have the opportunity once this cycle comes back around to pick up where those conversations left off and hopefully we can make some headway and get something done.”
Veach said he a meeting is scheduled with Jones’ agents during this week’s scouting combine. The Chiefs face a March 10 deadline in determining whether or not to place the franchise tag on Jones. Veach didn’t rule out the franchise tag as an option.
“Sometimes these things take some time to work through,” Veach said. “The franchise is something that we have the ability to use. We certainly would like to see if we can work something out with him and I think the tandem of Chris Jones and Frank Clark is something that any team would want and we’re going to work hard to see if we can get that done.”
Discussions on a long-term deal can continue if the Chiefs place the tag on Jones, but Veach concedes several external factors are impacting a potential contract. That includes ongoing negotiations between owners and players on a new collective bargaining agreement as well as wedging in a potential big-dollar extension under the salary cap alongside the deal Clark signed last offseason worth $104 million.
“I think just going working through the breakdowns and dispersals and looking forward,” Veach said. “A lot of this we have to wait with the new CBA and see how that looks. It’s always a challenge but I think when you have guys as talented as Chris and these other players, you’re going to turn over every scenario and just see what exactly can be done.”
Head coach Andy Reid said he has spoken to Jones but stays out of contract negotiations. He said he naturally wants Jones to return.
“I understand the business and how it goes,” Reid said. “You’d like to keep everybody. I told the guys I’d like to keep everybody together, but that’s not always possible. Sure, if he’s here, he’s a good football player. Why wouldn’t I want him here?”
The Chiefs face another decision regarding the contract of Sammy Watkins. The receiver carries a salary-cap number of $21 million for the 2020 season, and the Chiefs can shave $14 million off the cap by releasing the veteran. Veach said he also plans to meet with agent Tory Dandy this week on possibly bridging the gap with a new contract that could keep Watkins in the fold for next season.
“Sammy’s a guy that like Chris that we’re going to have dialogue with this week,” Veach said. “There’s certainly different options and different scenarios that could play out with him. He’s a guy that we do want back. Again, these are good problems to have because you win a Super Bowl you obviously have a lot of good players and they make a lot of money.”
Watkins slyly hinted at possible retirement if the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, but Reid said he picked up no hints of that in his discussions with the player.
“Sammy’s in a good place,” Reid said. “He’s in a good place. I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that, but I didn’t read it or see it. But I have talked to him, and he’s in a great place.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and a contributor for Sports Radio 810 WHB. Follow him on Twitter @mattderrick.