INDIANAPOLIS — Defensive tackle Chris Jones, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 18, has been vocal about his desire to remain with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Super Bowl champions would like nothing more than to make Jones' wishes come true.
"I would say it'd be a priority for us to make that happen," Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "What transpires in the next few weeks and months is to be determined, but certainly our goal and our intent is to keep him in Kansas City."
Veach preached a message of patience, saying "these things take some time to work through" before adding he will meet with Jones' agents in the coming days.
He also said that discussions between the Chiefs and Jones' camp on a potential new deal have been ongoing since last year.
"We had dialogue last offseason, we had dialogue prior to the season starting, and Chris did a great job of blocking all that out and really attacking the season," Veach said. "He handled that like a true pro. Now we've got the opportunity once this cycle comes back around to pick up where those conversations left off and hopefully we can make headway and get something done."
Veach didn't disclose what day he is scheduled to sit down with Jones' camp, but a looming league-wide deadline will prompt the two sides to meet sooner than later. The NFL's franchise tag window, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was delayed two days to Thursday.
The Chiefs could decide to use their franchise tag on Jones, which would keep the Pro Bowler in Kansas City on a one-year contract worth an average of the salaries of the league's five highest-paid peers at Jones' position.
"The franchise tag is something that we have the ability to use," Veach said. "We'd certainly like to see if we can work something out with him, and I think the tandem of Chris Jones and Frank Clark is something that any team would want. We're going to work hard to see if we can get that done."
Utilizing the tag would come at a cost, though. Tagging Jones carries an estimated price tag of $16.7 million. Spotrac projects the Chiefs to have just $16.5 million in available salary cap space at the start of the NFL's new calendar year, which begins March 18.
Keeping Jones — either with an outright contract extension or the club's lone franchise tag -- wouldn't leave the Chiefs a lot of room to maneuver in terms of other players' contract situations.
Veach, however, doesn't appear too fazed by the team's apparent lack of spending money.
"It's challenging, but doesn't mean it's impossible," Veach said. "I think just working through the breakdowns and the dispersals and looking forward -- a lot of this we have to wait with the new CBA and see how that looks-- it's always a challenge.
"But I think when you have guys as talented as Chris and these other players, you're going to turn over every scenario and just see what exactly can be done. So, it's a challenge but it's not impossible."
Here are some other areas Veach touched on Tuesday:
— Wide receiver Sammy Watkins will count $21 million against the salary cap, making him a prime candidate for the Chiefs to approach about restructuring his contract to give the team some cap relief.
Veach said Watkins played a large role in helping the Chiefs win the Super Bowl. He said the team will meet with Watkins' agent this week to discuss his current contract.
"Sammy's a guy who, like Chris, we're going to have dialogue with this week, and there's certainly different options and different scenarios that could play out," Veach said. "He's a guy that we do want back, and again, these are good problems to have. You win a Super Bowl, you obviously have a lot of good players and they make a lot of money. Sammy's a guy who ... has been critical to our playoff success."
— Less than a month ago, Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt provided an estimated "12 to 15 months" window for the team to get something done contractually with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is now eligible for a contract extension.
Veach on Tuesday reinforced Hunt's stance that the timeline is no more specific than that.
"We have a lot of time and that's a good thing in regards to Pat," Veach said. "We'll, I'm almost certain, continue dialogue with him like we've had with Chris and other guys. ... That's another big priority."
— Jones' and Watkins' agents aren't the only player representatives Veach plans on meeting with in Indianapolis.
The Chiefs have 20 players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. The list includes Jones, cornerback Kendall Fuller, defensive tackle Mike Pennel, guard Stefen Wisniewski, fullback Anthony Sherman and backup quarterbacks Matt Moore and Chad Henne.
The general manager said he will sit down with all of those players' representatives in coming days.
"Yeah, it's a busy week," Veach said. "That's what makes it fun, and then you throw in all the young prospects you get to watch this week, we're excited about getting after it."