Chiefs Expected To Use Franchise Tag

It appears at least one of the Chiefs’ top defensive free agents will be sticking around for the team’s threepeat bid. Brett Veach said (via’s James Palmer) he anticipates using the franchise tag this year.

This prediction stands to affect Chris Jones or L’Jarius Sneed, but it probably will pertain to the younger defender. While Veach said (via’s Charles Goldman) Jones remains the team’s top priority, tagging the perennial All-Pro will be prohibitive due to the team having cuffed him back in 2020. This points to Sneed being kept off this year’s market.

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Although last week’s news regarding the salary cap will make Sneed more expensive to tag, it will still be more than $12MM cheaper for the two-time reigning champions to keep the four-year corner off the market compared to the eight-year DT. A Sneed tag will cost $19.8MM for the Chiefs, who will need to create cap space to make this move. As of Tuesday, the Chiefs hold just more than $16MM in cap room.

Showcasing the ability to play outside and in the slot over the course of his four-year career, Sneed delivered an impact contract year. Regularly covering No. 1 wide receivers and allowing just a 56.2 passer rating as the closest defender, the former fourth-round pick was indispensable for a suddenly defense-powered Chiefs team. This did not garner Sneed an All-Pro nod or a Pro Bowl honor, to the surprise of many, but he has now started for two Super Bowl-winning teams and been a regular defender in three Super Bowls.

If the Chiefs were to let Sneed hit the market, it is possible they would need to authorize a record-setting cornerback contract — based on the cap jumping to $255.4MM and the number of teams needing CB help — to retain him. The tag number now nearly matches Jaire Alexander‘s AAV ($21MM) that still sets the bar at this position. With the Bears likely to tag Jaylon Johnson, Sneed would move into position as the top corner available if permitted to reach the market. That appears unlikely to commence. This would represent a deviation for the Chiefs, who have not placed a high priority on paying corners under Andy Reid. The team has passed on doling out second contracts to Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson, Kendall Fuller and Charvarius Ward. Sneed appears set to be an exception.

A near-$20MM Sneed cap hold will turn up the heat on the Chiefs regarding Jones, who can begin speaking with other teams March 11 — when the legal tampering period begins. Though, the Combine regularly serves as a preview for what is out there for big-name free agents. Due to the 2020 tag, it would cost the Chiefs more than $32MM to tag their top defender.

Jones and the Chiefs could not come to terms on an extension last summer, leading to the likely Hall of Famer holding out into Week 1. An incentive package — and the threat of more missed game checks — brought Jones back, and he again played the lead role on Kansas City’s defense. Jones has said he wants to stay, but the sides are running out of time.

Considering the fines Jones incurred by missing practices and then Week 1, it would surprise if he did not see what was out there by testing the market. But the Chiefs will certainly try to prevent that from happening. The team aimed to extend Jones on a deal more in line with the younger crop of DTs that formed a new second tier at the position last summer, but Jones — who played out a four-year, $80MM extension last season — aimed for a deal closer to Aaron Donald‘s $31.7MM-AAV pact. After another dominant season (and the cap’s rise), the 29-year-old star will be in strong position to score a near-Donald-level accord soon.

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