Chris Jones may have missed all of training camp and the first regular-season game, but he didn’t miss a beat when he came back for Week Two.
The Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman started and played more than half of the 64 defensive snaps despite the 87-degree Florida heat (and 68% humidity) in the Chiefs’ 17-9 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Great to have Chris Jones back,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “That was a heck of job.”
An integral part of a defense that did not allow a touchdown, Jones had 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits and a deflected pass.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Jones said. “When my number’s called, I try to answer.”
The versatile Jones showed his comfort with the scheme despite the absence — as the Chiefs moved him around, playing him on the interior and at defensive end.
Two of his best plays came while playing end on the left side and matching up against rookie right tackle Anton Harrison, who was drafted in part to help replace Jawaan Taylor after he signed a four-year, $80 million contract with the Chiefs.
His first key play at defensive end shifted momentum in the game. The Jaguars led 3-0 and went for it on 4th and 5 from the Chiefs’ 45-yard line.
Given a short field, following Jones’ 5-yard sack, the Chiefs scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive and would not trail again.
In the following quarter, Jones deflected a pass on 3rd and 14. And in the final stanza, he again beat Harrison off the edge to force a half-sack with 4:47 left in the game. Part of the Chiefs’ excellent red-zone defense, he helped seal the game by thwarting that drive that reached the Chiefs’ 14-yard line.
“The defense was incredible,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “The defense won that game.”
The best player on that defense is Jones, which is why he wanted a contract higher than his current four-year, $80 million deal.
When the sides couldn’t reach terms, the Chiefs restructured his contract for the 2023 season so that he could receive additional incentives, including $ 1 million for 35% playing time, $1 million for 50% playing time, $1.25 million for 10 sacks, $500,000 for 15 sacks, $1 million if selected a first team All-Pro and the Chiefs play in the Super Bowl and $2 million if he wins Defensive Player of the Year and the Chiefs win the Super Bowl.
The catch is that Jones did not receive a clause preventing a franchise tag, so he could receive that tender from the Chiefs next offseason, according to ESPN.
All in all, he’ll have his same base salary of $19.5 million — minus the $1.08 million lost game check for Week One and $2.1 million in training camp fines.
After Jones forfeited that money without gaining a long-term deal, many football pundits have suggested Jones lost the negotation by holding out.
He, though, disagrees.
“It’s never a disappointment when you’re able to get more money,” he said. “The Hunt family respected me enough to actually raise my salary up for me just a little bit so I can make a little more money this year.”
Jones looked well on his way to hitting some of those incentives.
During the week prior to his first game action, Jones impressed Reid with his endurance at practice.
Reid was confident that Jones would do well, but he admitted that he exceeded his expectations.
It’s all the more noteworthy, considering the sweltering conditions.
“The heat didn’t bother me. I was well-prepared for it,” Jones said. “It felt like I was back in Miami.”
That is where he worked out with noted trainer Pete Bommarito during the offseason.
The Chiefs won their eighth straight versus their Florida foe, the Jaguars, who they defeated in January’s divisional playoff game.
They also celebrated Patrick Mahomes 28th birthday in fashion, but most importantly it represented a triumphant return for Jones.
Tight end Travis Kelce said he was “happy as hell” to have him back.
“He looked like the 9, 5 that I know,” Kelce said.