NFL: AFC Championship-Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs have not discussed a long-term contract with star defensive lineman Chris Jones since using the franchise tag on him early in the offseason. And it appears that will remain the case for a while. While the Chiefs are facing salary cap uncertainty beyond 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while quarterback Patrick Mahomes is likely first on their priority list for a mega-extension, Jones himself has seemingly not wavered from his wish: to become one of the NFL's highest-paid defenders.

According to's Jeffri Chadiha, the Pro Bowl D-lineman has been seeking a new contract worth about $21 million per year since before the 2019 season. And that number almost certainly hasn't changed.

When the Chiefs traded for defensive end Frank Clark last season, they gave the former Seahawks standout a five-year deal worth $105.5 million, with $63.5 million in guaranteed money. That was the kind of money Jones was looking for last August ... It's (now) even harder to believe he's not clamoring for an even bigger package than what Kansas City gave Clark ... Jones improved enough as a willing run defender in 2019 -- that part of his game had consistently been seen as a major weakness -- that he has every right to want a deal in the average salary range of $21 million.

A $21M annual salary would make Jones one of the three highest-paid defensive players in the league, behind only the Chicago BearsKhalil Mack ($23.5M) and the Los Angeles RamsAaron Donald ($22.5M). Up to this point, however? K.C. hasn't budged.

Hence Jones steering clear of the Chiefs' virtual offseason program, with July 15's deadline for tagged players to finalize a long-term agreement fast approaching. Not much figures to change in the coming weeks, with K.C. unable to fully project 2021 cap space and firmly committed to its Super Bowl-winning QB above all, so Chadiha foresees a "serious game of chicken" between the two sides.

Jones could ultimately opt to play under the tag in 2020, earning $16.1 million before hitting free agency again. But he could also hold out after the July 15 deadline in an effort to orchestrate a trade and get his lucrative deal elsewhere. The 2019 Pro Bowler has said he wants to remain in Kansas City for the long haul, and the Chiefs assuredly want him to anchor their championship front. As Chadiha notes, however, big names like Le'Veon Bell and Jadeveon Clowney have at least somewhat successfully earned their freedom by holding out under tags in recent years, and unless the two sides begin talks soon, a trade can't be ruled out.

Per Chadiha:

"He was underpaid last season, and I don't see him even being swayed by the $16.1 million being offered for one year of work. He's turning 26 on July 3. He's in the prime of his career. He'd also be the most attractive free agent on the market if the Chiefs pulled the franchise tag off him tomorrow."