Chiefs ‘Preparing’ for $65 Million Star to Walk in Free Agency - Sport News

Chiefs ‘Preparing’ for $65 Million Star to Walk in Free Agency

It’s no secret that the Kansas City Chiefs defense helped propel the team to winning back-to-back Super Bowls.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, two of their biggest defensive stars, Chris Jones and L’Jarius Sneed hit free agency in March. A franchise tag on Jones would cost the Chiefs north of $32 million. Spotrac.com projects Sneed earning a four-year, $65 million contract in free agency.

L'Jarius Sneed

Even with the inflated salary cap for 2024, keeping both seems near impossible. “Jones is the team’s best player not named Patrick Mahomes, and his game-wrecking performance in the Super Bowl only underlined his value,” ESPN insider Dan Graziano wrote on February 19.

According to Graziano, prioritizing Jones shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Kansas City has “been preparing for [Sneed’s] potential exit for the past couple of years.”

With cornerback Trent McDuffie locked into his $13.9 million rookie contract for two more years, Graziano believes the Chiefs “may just let [Sneed] walk.”

 

“Sneed is one of the league’s top corners and a key part of the Chiefs’ defense (nine pass breakups last season and 10 career interceptions), so he wouldn’t be easy to replace,” Graziano wrote. “But the Chiefs have drafted four cornerbacks in the past two drafts, including 2022 first-rounder Trent Mcduffie, who appears more than ready to take over as the No. 1 corner if Sneed leaves.

“Their draft strategy has been preparing them for the possibility of this happening. Jones, who is the key to their pass rush and a top-five defender in the league, seems to be more difficult to replace than Sneed.”

Separating L’Jarius Sneed & Trent McDuffie Breaks Up ‘The Best 1-2 Punch at Cornerback in the NFL’

This past season, McDuffie recorded 80 tackles, 7 passes defensed, 5 forced fumbles and 3 sacks. He added another 12 tackles, 7 passes defensed, and 1 fumble recovery in the postseason.

Sneed tallied 78 total tackles, 14 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions during the regular season. In playoffs, he added another 17 tackles, 3 passes defensed, and 1 forced fumble. Chiefs analyst Seth Keysor believes separating Sneed and McDuffie would be a mistake. He called the duo the “best 1-2 punch at cornerback in the NFL.”

Keysor wrote, “Sneed and McDuffie are foundational players around which a defensive gameplan can be built… They also left no doubt as to the best 1-2 CB duo in the NFL, and the importance of trying to keep that duo together.”

While Jones is also “central” to Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, Sneed and McDuffie “demonstrated their value as cornerstones of a franchise” this past season.

Can the Chiefs Keep L’Jarius Sneed If They Sign Chris Jones a Long-Term Contract?

The Chiefs can clear enough cap space to franchise tag Jones by restructuring Mahomes’ contract. However, there would be little room to do anything else. If Kansas City works out a new long-term deal with Jones, which seems most likely, they could also offer Sneed a large deal.

However, after signing new players through the NFL draft, there won’t be enough money to retain several other key pending free agents. Even with the opportunity for a Super Bowl three-peat, Sneed doesn’t sound willing to take a pay cut. At age 27, this is the Louisiana Tech alum’s best opportunity to capitalize and get the bag.

“With McDuffie and others ready to move up, it feels like the Chiefs are prepared to let Sneed leave and use that money elsewhere,” Graziano surmised, “Even though it’s possible for the Chiefs to keep both Jones and Sneed, the prediction here is that they won’t. I think they will find a way to keep Jones, since he’s just that irreplaceable.”

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