Joe Thuney

Chris Jones, Travis Kelce To Play In Week 2

SEPTEMBER 15: After practicing during the week, Kelce will indeed take the field in Week 2, Reid confirmed on Friday (via Teicher). With both he and Jones in the fold, the Chiefs will be well-positioned to rebound from their season-opening performance as they look to repeat last year’s postseason win over the Jaguars.

While it was already known Jones would be in the lineup on Sunday, SI’s Albert Breer notes the team will monitor his workload closely. No pitch count is planned as of now, but after missing all of training camp, it will be interesting to see how much he will see the field in his return.

SEPTEMBER 13: Patrick Mahomes looks like he will have more help against the Jaguars than he did against the Lions. The Chiefs will have Travis Kelce back at practice Wednesday, marking a good step for the future Hall of Fame tight end.

Kelce will log a limited practice session today, which represents a positive sign for his prospects of suiting up in Jacksonville. Kelce missed Week 1 after suffering a hyperextended knee and a bone bruise during the Tuesday practice leading up to Kansas City’s Week 1 game against Detroit. Seeing as the Chiefs had not been without Kelce due to injury since 2013, his absence proved noticeable in a game in which both Mahomes and Kansas City’s inexperienced receiving corps struggled.

Andy Reid also confirmed (via ESPN’s Adam Teicher) Chris Jones will return to action against the Jags. The Chiefs reached a revised agreement with Jones to end his lengthy holdout. While Jones is not guaranteed to recoup what he lost by holding out and missing Week 1, an incentive package is present for the dominant defensive tackle.

Jones pushed his holdout longer than Zack Martin or Nick Bosa and did not achieve what he sought — an Aaron Donald-level extension. While he is a strong candidate to reach free agency, the Chiefs have not given up on an extension that would keep him in Missouri on a long-term third contract. The Chiefs having franchise-tagged Jones in 2020 would run his 2024 tag number past $32MM. For perspective, it cost the Commanders $18.94MM to tag D-tackle Daron Payne this year.

Although the Lions’ run game moving the chains on a Jones-less defensive front helped key the upset victory, the Chiefs’ passing attack became a bigger story. Kansas City won Super Bowl LVII after trading Tyreek Hill, but the team also relied on Kelce and, to a lesser extent, JuJu Smith-Schuster last season. Reid confirmed the Chiefs were not close to matching the Patriots’ three-year, $25.5MM Smith-Schuster offer, and while plans for Kadarius Toney as a WR1 existed early this offseason, the ex-Giants first-rounder has proven inconsistent at every turn since being drafted. The injury-prone wideout’s drops plagued the Chiefs in Week 1, with their other young receivers not moving the needle much during a sluggish opener. A first- or second-team All-Pro selection in seven straight years, Kelce returning will at least provide a sturdy safety net for Mahomes.

In other Chiefs news, they restructured veteran guard Joe Thuney‘s deal. The move, which ESPN’s Field Yates notes frees up $8.7MM in cap space, will make room for Jones’ $19.5MM base salary. Jones had resided on K.C.’s reserve/did not report list. Thuney, who signed a $16MM-per-year deal in 2021, is under contract through the 2025 season. The Chiefs will need to make a decision on the 31-year-old blocker by next year, when his cap number spikes to $26.97MM. Thuney will almost certainly not be brought back at that rate, pointing to another contract-related move coming.

Largest 2023 Cap Hits: Offense

The NFL’s salary cap once again ballooned by more than $10MM, rising from its $208.2MM perch to $224.8MM. Factoring in the pandemic-induced 2021 regression, the NFL’s salary risen has climbed by more than $42MM since 2021.

This has allowed teams more opportunities for roster additions and opened the door for more lucrative player deals — at most positions, at least. However, it does not look like this season will include a $40MM player cap number. The Browns avoided a record-shattering Deshaun Watson $54.9MM hit by restructuring the quarterback’s fully guaranteed contract, calling for monster figures from 2024-26.

Here are the largest cap hits for teams on the offensive side going into training camp:

  1. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $39.69MM
  2. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $36.6MM
  3. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $30.98MM
  4. Jake Matthews, T (Falcons): $28.36MM
  5. Trent Williams, T (49ers): $27.18MM
  6. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $26.83MM
  7. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $26.61MM
  8. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $23.8MM
  9. Amari Cooper, WR (Browns): $23.78MM
  10. Mike Evans, WR (Buccaneers): $23.69MM
  11. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $23.67MM
  12. Joe Thuney, G (Chiefs): $22.12MM
  13. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $22MM
  14. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $22MM
  15. Daniel Jones, QB (Giants): $21.75MM
  16. David Bakhtiari, T (Packers): $21.29MM
  17. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $20.25MM
  18. D.J. Moore, WR (Bears): $20.17MM
  19. Matthew Stafford, QB (Rams): $20MM
  20. Brian O’Neill, T (Vikings): $19.66MM
  21. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $19.35MM
  22. Deshaun Watson, QB (Browns): $19.1MM
  23. Braden Smith, T (Colts): $19MM
  24. Josh Allen, QB (Bills): $18.64MM
  25. Courtland Sutton, WR (Broncos): $18.27MM

As should be expected, quarterbacks dominate this list. Mahomes’ number checks in here despite the Chiefs restructuring his 10-year, $450MM contract in March; the two-time MVP’s cap hit would have set an NFL record had Kansas City not reduced it. The Chiefs did not restructure Mahomes’ deal last year, but if they do not address it — perhaps via a complex reworking — before next season, Mahomes’ $46.93MM number would break an NFL record.

The Titans have not touched Tannehill’s contract this offseason, one that included some trade rumors months ago. This is the final year of Tannehill’s Tennessee extension. Mahomes and Tannehill sat atop this ranking in 2022.

Cousins is also heading into a contract year, after the Vikings opted for a restructure and not an extension this offseason. Cousins does not expect to discuss another Minnesota deal until 2024, when he is due for free agency. Two relatively low cap numbers have started Wilson’s $49MM-per-year extension. The Denver QB’s cap number rises to $35.4MM in 2024 and reaches historic heights ($55.4MM) by ’25. The subject of a Goff extension has come up, and it would bring down the Lions passer’s figure. But Goff remains tied to his Rams-constructed $33.5MM-per-year deal through 2024.

Jackson and Jones’ numbers will rise in the near future, with the latter’s contract calling for a quick spike in 2024. Next year, the Giants QB’s cap hit will be $45MM. Watson’s 2024 hit, as of now, would top that. The Browns signal-caller is on the team’s ’24 payroll at $63.98MM. Long-term consequences aside, the Browns can be expected to once again go to the restructure well with Watson’s outlier contract.

The Raiders did not backload Garoppolo’s three-year contract; it only climbs to $24.25MM on Las Vegas’ 2024 cap sheet. The Bills did backload Allen’s pact. Its team-friendly years are done after 2023; the six-year accord spikes to $47.1MM on Buffalo’s cap next year. The Cowboys have gone to the restructure well with Prescott. Like Watson, the Cowboys quarterback is tied to a seemingly untenable 2024 cap number. The March restructure resulted in Prescott’s 2024 number rising to $59.46MM. Two seasons remain on that $40MM-AAV extension.

Another notable cap hold that should be mentioned is Tom Brady‘s. When the Buccaneers did not sign the again-retired QB to another contract before the 2023 league year, his $35.1MM dead-money figure went onto Tampa Bay’s 2023 cap sheet. The Bucs will absorb that entire amount this year. Brady’s 2022 restructure, after retirement No. 1, led to the $35.1MM figure forming.

Were it not for another O-line-record extension, the Tunsil number would have come in at $35MM this year. Matthews signed an extension last year. Moore would have come in higher on this list were he still on the Panthers, who took on $14.6MM in dead money to move their top wideout for the No. 1 overall pick. Sutton came up regularly in trade rumors, with the Broncos wanting a second-round pick for the sixth-year veteran. The former second-rounder’s high base salary ($14MM) hinders his trade value.

Chiefs Rework OL Joe Thuney’s Contract

The Chiefs have opened a significant chunk of cap space. The team restructured the contract of offensive lineman Joe Thuney, according to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter).

Specifically, the Chiefs converted $12.86MM of Thuney‘s base salary into a signing bonus. The move created $9.6MM in cap space.

Thuney spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Patriots, earning two Super Bowl rings and a second-team All-Pro nod.The former third-round pick ended up starting all 80 of his games during his time in New England.

The lineman inked a five-year, $80MM contract with the Chiefs last offseason, and he proceeded to see time in all 17 games for his new team, appearing in 99 percent of his team’s offensive snaps. Thuney also started all three of Kansas City’s playoff games.

Chiefs’ OL Lucas Niang Out For Rest Of Season

According to a tweet from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Andy Reid informed reporters, after the Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals today, that tackle Lucas Niang suffered a torn patellar tendon. Worries were high for the second-year lineman when he needed to be carted off early in the first quarter. Unfortunately, this type of injury not only prevents Niang from returning this year, but, even after extensive rehabilitation, it could hamper Niang for years to come.

Niang was a third-round pick for the Chiefs two years ago, but was one of several players who opted out of the 2020-21 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns. In what is effectively his rookie season, Niang has been a key player on the line, starting 8 games this season while dealing with some injuries and spending some time on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Kansas City was already short their other starting tackle, Orlando Brown, as he was scratched early this morning with a calf injury. The Chiefs pushed guard Joe Thuney to left tackle and relied on Andrew Wylie at right tackle. Wylie has been filling in for Niang this year and Kansas City will likely continue to depend on him into the playoffs. The loss of Brown is much more concerning for the immediate future and they will hope to get him back in time for a January run.

As for Niang, a speedy and efficient recovery is the best hope. Tears of the patellar tendon have a penchant for ruining careers. While players have been known to rehab and return, few have looked like their former selves after. Players like former Giants’ receiver Victor Cruz and former Buccaneers’ running back Cadillac Williams have returned to play only to look like shadows of their former selves. Longtime former Patriots’ linebacker Jerod Mayo retired shortly after his diagnosis.

Bears’ tight end Jimmy Graham is a rare example of a player who returned to play and continued being his dominant self. After Graham was traded to the Seahawks, he never quite reached the thousand-yards-receiving-coupled-with-double-digit-touchdown seasons of his days with the Saints, but, after tearing his right patellar tendon in his first season in Seattle, Graham returned to Pro Bowl play each of the next two years and set a Seahawks’ franchise record for single season touchdowns by a tight end with 10 in 2017.

We obviously hope for a best case scenario outcome like this as Niang deals with one of football’s biggest nemeses. Torn patellar tendons have ruined too many careers before they began. Our hopes go out to Lucas as he prepares to tackle a daunting injury and we wish him a long and healthy career.

Patriots Made Late Push For Joe Thuney

Before Joe Thuney left for the Chiefs, the Patriots made a late push to keep him in New England, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. In addition, the Bengals and Chargers were also in on the standout guard. 

[RELATED: Chiefs Sign Joe Thuney]

The Patriots shocked everyone by tagging Thuney last year. This time around, they opted against cuffing him again at a 20% increase, but they still tried to keep him with a multi-year offer. Ultimately, the Chiefs won out – they were the first team to put an offer on the table for Thuney and it proved to be the most lucrative of the bunch. The longtime starter is now tied to Kansas City for five years at a whopping $80MM. The first two years are fully guaranteed at $32.5MM. Meanwhile, Year 3 goes from guaranteed-for-injury to 100% guaranteed in 2022, so $48MM of the deal is effectively locked in. Thuney didn’t come cheap, but he’ll help to fortify a line that has lost starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz.

When Thuney went elsewhere, the Bengals pivoted towards lower cost moves, such as re-signing guard Quinton Spain. Unless they make a splashier signing like veteran Nick Easton, they’ll probably look to find a starter early on in the draft. Meanwhile, the Chargers managed to ink All-Pro center Corey Linsley and versatile lineman Matt Feiler, so Justin Herbert should be well protected.

In addition to those aforementioned teams, the Jets also tried to land Thuney. He’s long been a target of Gang Green – they were planning to make a big push for him last year, too, up until the Patriots kept him from the open market.

Chiefs To Sign Joe Thuney

One of the most high profile free agents is off the board, and the Chiefs have made a big splash. Kansas City is signing guard Joe Thuney to a five-year deal, his agent Mike McCartney announced on Twitter.

Details soon trickled in, with Adam Schefter of tweeting that the five-year pact is worth a whopping $80MM. The first two years are fully guaranteed at $32.5MM, and while the third year is initially only guaranteed for injury it becomes fully guaranteed in year two, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. As such, he writes that $48MM of the deal is “practically guaranteed.”

Patrick Mahomes was running for his life during this past Super Bowl, and the Chiefs immediately set out to aggressively remake the offensive line. They cut both of their starting tackles, Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, and are expected to let starting center Austin Reiter walk in free agency.

At $16MM annually, Thuney is now the highest-paid guard in the league. Thuney was highly sought after, and we heard the Jets were preparing a push for the former Patriot. A third-round pick back in 2016, Thuney immediately became a starter in New England and has started all 80 possible games since entering the league.

That kind of durability must’ve been attractive to a Chiefs team that saw their O-line decimated by injuries last year. Thuney was a second-team All-Pro in 2019, and is one of the league’s best interior linemen. He has versatility, and started a couple of games at center for the Patriots in 2020.

Despite landing one of the big fishes on the market, Kansas City likely isn’t going to stop here with addressing Mahomes’ blockers. They’re also set to host the recently un-retired Kyle Long this week.

The Pats franchise tagged Thuney last offseason, but never got a long-term deal done. Minimal progress had been made right up until the point New England traded for Trent Brown, although Albert Breer of writes that “lines of communication” had recently reopened and that the Patriots had expressed interest in keeping Thuney.

Obviously nothing got done, and despite New England’s free-wheeling spending so far, Thuney got priced out of their range. It’s a big upgrade for the Chiefs.

Jets Interested In Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney

The Jets missed out on Kevin Zeitler and they won’t have an opportunity to speak with Andrew Norwell. However, they have two other interior linemen on their list. The Jets are expected to pursue center Corey Linsley and guard Joe Thuney, according to Rich Cimini of (Twitter link). 

The Jets were said to be keenly interested in Thuney last week with plans to call him bright and early on Monday morning. The Patriots declined to tag him again, making him an unfettered free agent. A second-team All-Pro in 2019 and a key part of the Patriots’ most recent Super Bowl wins, Thuney is regarded as one of the better guards in the NFL.

Linsley, meanwhile, was a First-Team All-Pro for his work with the Packers last season. It’s expected that he’ll approach or best Ryan Kelly‘s $12.4MM per-year average, so either player would be mighty costly for the Jets. Still, the offensive line is a long-standing need for Gang Green, so they’re willing to spend the big bucks.

Jets To Pursue OL Joe Thuney

It sounds like the Jets could be preparing to make a big splash in free agency. When the negotiating period opens tomorrow, one of New York GM Joe Douglas’ “first calls” will be to Joe Thuney‘s reps, sources told Connor Hughes of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Thuney is one of the highlights of what has turned out to be a really solid free agent offensive line class. After franchise tagging him last season, the Patriots recently opted not to hit him with a second consecutive tag that would’ve paid him almost $18MM in 2021. Hughes writes that the Jets “love his versatility, reliability & the fact he’s spent entire career in winning culture.” As he also points out, they’ll face competition for his services.

Offensive line has been a weak spot for the Jets for years, and after drafting Mekhi Becton 11th overall last year, signing one of the priority free agents like Thuney would show Douglas is serious about solving the issue once and for all. A relatively unheralded third-round pick back in 2016, Thuney blossomed into one of the league’s best guards in New England.

He was a second-team All-Pro in 2019 and has been remarkably consistent and durable, starting all 80 possible games since getting drafted. The NC State product was a major part of the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl wins.

As Hughes alluded to, Thuney is quite versatile, as he filled in at center for a couple of games this past year and also played tackle in college. If he does opt to stay in the AFC East and sign with the Jets, who he’ll be blocking for will still very much be an open question.

Patriots Won’t Tag Joe Thuney

After taking on Trent Brown, the Patriots have decided against using the franchise tag on Joe Thuney (Twitter link via’s Adam Schefter). As a second-time tag, the offensive lineman would have been in line for about $17.7MM. 

[RELATED: Raiders Trade Trent Brown To Patriots]

The Patriots stunned everyone last year by tagging Thuney. Historically, the Patriots have been comfortable with allowing high-priced free agents to walk and the league, for some reason, puts guards and tackles in the same category for the franchise tag. Still, they were willing to give Thuney “tackle money” on a one-year, ~$14.8MM deal.

Thuney, 29 in November, has started in all 80 of his games for the Pats over the last four seasons. In 2018 and 2019, he graded out as one of the five best offensive guards in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. He slipped ever so slightly this past season, placing him at No. 10. With Thuney out of the picture, the Patriots will likely use Trent Brown at left tackle while shifting Isaiah Wynn to left guard.

On the open market, Thuney will likely seek something in the range of $14MM per annum. A five-year, $70MM deal would position him as the highest-paid left guard in the NFL, topping Andrew Norwell‘s $66.5MM deal.

Patriots, Joe Thuney Were Never Close To Extension

The Patriots surprised everyone last year when they used the franchise tag on Joe Thuney. Often times, the tag is used as a bridge towards an extension. But, in this case, the two sides have yet to make real progress. The Patriots have never been close on a multi-year deal with the standout guard, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic

Thuney is set to reach the open market in March and Howe anticipates that he’ll seek something in the range of $14MM per year. A five-year, $70MM deal would position him as the highest-paid left guard in the NFL, besting Andrew Norwell‘s $66.5MM contract. Following the tag, Thuney played on one-year, $14.78MM deal in 2020.

Ideally, the Patriots would like to keep Thuney, but the numbers crunch might not allow for it. And, historically, the Patriots have been willing to let key free agents walk when the price gets too rich. They have a solid track record for drafting interior linemen, so they could theoretically let Thuney leave, boost their compensatory draft pick calculation, and replace him with someone younger/cheaper.

Thuney, 29 in November, has started in all 80 of his games for the Pats over the last four seasons. In 2018 and 2019, he graded out as one of the five best offensive guards in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. He slipped ever so slightly this past season, placing him at No. 10.