Chiefs open camp without star defensive lineman Chris Jones

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes waves to fans after NFL football training camp Sunday, July 23, 2023, in St. Joseph, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs held their first full-squad workout of training camp Sunday under a bright sunny sky and without All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones.

Coach Andy Reid says he’s not worried yet about the absence of his star lineman, who has yet to report for camp.

“We’ll just see how things go here down the road,” Reid said following Sunday’s practice. “There had been communication, we’ll see where it goes from here and we’ll take it. If you’re not here, we just keep moving, and that’s how we roll. We don’t worry a lot about that. We let it take care of itself and we got great people working on that.”

Jones has yet to report to camp as he seeks a new contract. The 29-year-old is due to make $19.5 million in base salary this season and carries a salary cap hit of almost $28.3 million.

The Chiefs are also motivated to renegotiate his contract. The NFL Players Association public salary cap report Sunday showed the club with just more than $1 million in available cap space.

General manager Brett Veach prefers maintaining a balance of 5 to 10 million in cap space during this time of the year. Hashing out a new long-term extension with Jones would keep him in Kansas City beyond the 2023 season while providing the club with much-needed salary cap relief.

Jones is seeking a new deal that would make him the second-highest-paid player in the league at his position.

Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams currently leads defensive tackles with an annual average salary of $31.67 million. There’s a big gap, however, between Donald and the No. 2 highest-paid tackle, Quinnen Williams. The New York Jets signed Williams to an extension earlier this month averaging $24 million per year.

That leaves a sizable target zone in which a new extension for Jones might fit. His absence from camp suggests the two sides remain far apart in negotiations, and Reid hinted at a change in tone when asked about his communication with the star defensive tackle.

“It’s been good up to just a bit ago,” Reid said. “They’re doing their thing, we’re doing our thing. And we’ll just see where it goes from there.”

While the Chiefs have handed out large contracts to superstars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, Mahomes is currently the seventh-best-paid quarterback at $45 million per year and Kelce ranks No. 3 among tight ends at $14.3 million per season.

Club chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said Sunday he’s not focused on where players rank in salary. He also trusts Veach to make the right decision.

“We really don’t think about it in the context of who’s the highest-paid player in the league, we think about in the context of the Kansas City Chiefs, and what’s best for the organization, not only this year but as we go forward,” Hunt said.

“One of the challenges in the National Football League is the salary cap. And it makes it tough to keep a championship team together. That’s something that Brett and his staff have really focused on. I think they’ve done a fantastic job.”

Daniel Wise, who entered the NFL from Kansas as an undrafted free agent in 2019, stepped into Jones’ place Sunday with the team’s starting defense. Wise has never had a sack in 17 games in the NFL. Jones, meanwhile, has 65 sacks since 2016, trailing only Donald (83) among defensive tackles during that time.

Safety Justin Reid said he’s excited to see young players such as Wise get an opportunity to showcase their skills. The absence of Jones isn’t a distraction, he added.

“He’s a professional, let him do his thing,” Reid said. “I’m focused on the guys here taking care of the (defensive back) room making sure that our young guys are ready to play.”

Middle linebacker Nick Bolton said the leadership of Jones is one thing the team will miss in his absence during camp.

“(It’s) most definitely one of the things I know he brings to the table,” Bolton said. “But again, at the same time, we’re working with the guys we got here, we’re going to come in every single day, put our best efforts forward. And when it gets here, we’ll make sure everybody’s up to speed and competing with him.”

NOTES: Wide receiver Kadarius Toney tweaked his knee returning a punt during warmups and was held out of the remainder of practice as a precaution. Rookie offensive tackle Wanya Morris suffered a hamstring strain Friday during the team’s rookie camp and did not practice Sunday. ... Starting running back Isiah Pacheco wore a yellow non-contact jersey Sunday as he returns from offseason surgeries on his shoulder and hand. He did not take part in the 11-on-11 scrimmage Sunday. “We’ll just see where he’s at,” Reid said. “As he goes, he’s got that, you got to kind of watch it, because he’s got that personality, where he’s 100 miles an hour on every play, that’s the reason we put the yellow jersey on him. So he doesn’t do anything crazy to himself, but yet, he wants to stay in football shape, especially for that position, that running back position."


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