Social-media posts from Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones seem to indicate that his protracted holdout might reach as long as midseason.
Jones posted a picture this week on social media with a sign that read: "If it's out of your hands, it deserves freedom from your mind also." He later added to the thread a post that read “Week 8”, with the implication being he might be willing to sit out -- and forfeit his prorated salary -- until the near midpoint of the 2023 regular season to get what he wants.
Week 8 would be the deadline for Jones to report and still accrue a season of experience, allowing him to be a free agent next spring.
Jones and the team have been at loggerheads over his contract, and though Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said recently that Jones “deserves a big contract,” no resolution has been reached. The Chiefs have said they have no intention of trading Jones. He's in the final year of a four-year, $80 million deal he signed in 2020.
And there are no clear-cut signs of progress toward a solution.
"There's been no communication, so I don't know what's gonna go (on) there," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said on Wednesday. "But whatever happens, happens.
"If you're not there, the game goes on, right? That's how it works."
Asked if there's a way he could step in on the negotiations, Reid said: "No, not right now there's not. So he's got to … they've got to communicate and do their thing. There's just been no communication, so…"
Skipping the first seven regular-season games would cost Jones approximately $7.6 million -- roughly $1.1 million per game-week check -- plus any additional fines the Chiefs could impose for his absence. The cost for skipping training camp, as agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA, is $50,000 per day.
The first-team All-Pro Jones logged 15.5 sacks and two forced fumbles last season in 17 regular-season starts, plus two more sacks in a dominant performance in beating the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game.
This offseason, four top-tier defensive tackles signed four-year contract extensions -- all of which surpassed Jones' current deal. They include the Giants' Dexter Lawrence and the Commanders' Daron Payne, both of whom received $90 million deals; plus the Titans' Jeffery Simmons ($94 million) and the Jets' Quinnen Williams ($96 million).
The Chiefs won Super Bowl LVII, and Jones had a lot to do with it. They'll be going for their third Lombardi Trophy in a five-year span this season, but doing it without him would be tough -- especially in a stacked AFC field.
"I don't think anyone expected him not to be here now," Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "He's a vital part of this organization."
But Mahomes, who said he understands why Jones is holding out, isn't assuming that Jones won't report prior to the Week 1 season opener against the Lions on Sept. 7.
"No, not necessarily," Mahomes said. "I know that stuff -- contract stuff -- is hard to talk about because everybody wants to make money for their entire family and everything like that. But I know how much Chris loves the Chiefs. He loves being a part of this organization.
"So I just try to stay out of it and tell Chris that I love him, and that whenever he does come back, he'll be welcomed with open arms. We know that he's preparing himself so that whenever he does go back, he can be that dominant player that he always has been."
Want to follow these storylines and more? NFL+ gives you the freedom to watch live out-of-market preseason games, daily coverage on NFL Network, the best NFL programming on-demand and much more! Plus, NFL RedZone is now part of NFL+ Premium! Learn more about NFL+.