Chiefs mulling whether to use franchise tag on Chris Jones or L’Jarius Sneed as deadline nears

The Kansas City Chiefs are weighing whether to use the franchise tag on All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones or star cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, though general manager Brett Veach said Tuesday he is hopeful both will be back next season.

The two stalwarts of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning defense would otherwise hit free agency next month.

“You’d like to be able to tag all the guys and pay all the guys, and it’s tough, because the more you win the more you have to pay players,” Veach said during an availability on the opening day of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. And obviously, when you have this amount of success, you’re paying players a lot of money.”

Jones would be due about $32 million, or a 20% bump from his 2023 salary cap number, and that could be prohibitive for a team expected to bump up against the cap. The franchise number for Sneed would be a more palatable $19.8 million.

The deadline to use the franchise tag is March 5.

The 27-year-old Sneed, a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft, has teamed with All-Pro cornerback Trent McDuffie to form one of the most formidable secondary duos in the NFL. Sneed didn’t allow a touchdown catch as the nearest defender in coverage during the regular season, and he helped to shut down the Ravens’ Zay Flowers in the AFC championship game.

He has 10 picks and 40 passes defended in 57 regular-season games and one pick in 13 postseason games.

Meanwhile, Jones is coming off another season in which he rated among the best interior pass rushers in the league, earning his second All-Pro nod and his fifth Pro Bowl trip. He had a half-sack in the wild-card round against Miami, and he had two QB hits on the 49ers’ Brock Purdy, helping Kansas City rally for an overtime victory in the Super Bowl.

Yet the Chiefs have tried the past two offseasons to work out a long-term deal with Jones, who will turn 30 in July, and have been unable to reach an agreement. That led to Jones holding out last offseason and through a Week 1 loss to Detroit, at which point his agents worked with Veach on an incentive-laden one-year deal to get him back on the field.

Sneed and Jones both could demand larger contracts on the open market, and the franchise tag would allow Kansas City to keep one out of a bidding war. But keeping both could come down to the players giving the Chiefs a hometown discount.

Jones has been a part of three Super Bowl championships, and Sneed the past two, and both talked after the season about what it would be like to become the first team in NFL history to raise the Lombardi Trophy three consecutive years.

“Love Chris. We tried really hard to get something done, but we didn’t,” Veach said. “But we got together right after that Detroit game. We had a great talk. Both parties want to be here. We’ll get to work. That’s certainly a guy we want back and we want to have finish his career in Kansas City.”


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