Chris Jones just reset the market for elite defensive linemen

Chris Jones just reset the market for defensive linemen with a four-year, $85 million deal to stay with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Chris Jones and the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to an 11th-hour extension on Tuesday, months after the star defensive linemen was franchise-tagged. The deal, worth $85 million over four years, ranks above both DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead in average annual value, and figures to completely reset the market.

Make no mistake, Jones is worth the money. The defensive tackle has 24.5 sacks over the past two seasons and is one of the most disruptive interior forces in the NFL. With him under contract, Kansas City has locked up most of its Super Bowl-winning core for the foreseeable future.

Impending 2021 free agents are assuredly interested in Jones’ new deal. Green Bay’s Kenny Clark, Pittsburgh’s Cam Heyward, Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett, and Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue will all likely seek similar deals.

Clark is the probably best comparison as a young three-down tackle who can stop the run and pass in equal measure, whereas Heyward’s age likely prevents him from landing a similar deal, and Barrett and Ngakoue play more on the outside.

Dedicated NFL fans knew that something like this was coming after Armstead and Buckner signed similar deals in the offseason. Every team could use an interior lineman capable of wreaking havoc, but they do not come cheap. Eventually, the bubble was going to pop, and 2020 is evidently the breaking point.

While Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack still make more than Jones, the market was always going to catch up to their massive deals. Just as the quarterback market saw each impending free agent make more than the last after Joe Flacco’s groundbreaking deal in 2013, the defensive line market has begun to behave in the same way.

Although quarterback is clearly the most important position on an NFL roster, one could argue that a dominant presence in the front four is not far behind. The Chiefs won the Super Bowl despite the fact that the defense, as a whole, was middle-of-the-pack, and Jones is a big reason why.

The disruption that he provides simply cannot be quantified, and his combination of run-stuffing and pass-rushing ability is rare. While Frank Clark provides an extra punch in the pass rush, Kansas City does not have another defender as versatile as Jones, and letting him walk would have left a gaping hole in the middle of the defense.

Essentially, Jones is the lynchpin of the Kansas City defense, and the unit would struggle mightily without him. The secondary and linebacking corps are both thin, and signing Jones to a lucrative deal is the price the Chiefs have to pay to field a respectable defense.

Other teams face the same quandary, and the Chiefs just forced their hands. For other young, elite defensive linemen set to hit free agency like Clark, Barrett and Ngakoue, Jones’ $20-plus million per year is likely a target point in negotiations.

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