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'Or I won't play'

Sam Mcdowell The Kansas City Star
Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo congratulates Chris Jones (95) after a sack against the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on December 29, 2019.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs' desire to return the bulk of the roster that won last season's Super Bowl is still absent one major piece.

Might it stay that way awhile?

The Chiefs have placed the franchise tag on defensive lineman Chris Jones, but he's yet to sign that tender, and the deadline to override it with a long-term agreement is July 15.

On Tuesday, Jones offered another possibility:

Sitting out the season.

The NFL Network tweeted a video in which it asked analysts which player they would like to see receive a new contract. One mentioned Jones.

"Or I won't play," Jones replied in a tweet. "LeVeon Bell told me about this."

Bell notably sat out the 2018 season over a contract dispute with the Steelers. He entered free agency the following offseason and then signed a four-year deal with the Jets.

Jones and Bell have spent time working out together in past offseasons.

Jones, who turns 26 on Friday, is eligible to make $16.1 million if he signs the franchise tag. But, as he reminded, he could also elect to sit rather than agreeing to that one-year number.

He completed his four-year, $6.2 million rookie deal last season. The two sides discussed a long-term match last summer but could not reach an agreement.

His productivity has been unquestioned, particularly over the past three seasons, when he has 31 sacks in 45 games. He made plays late in the 31-20 victory against San Francisco to win the Super Bowl, batting down three passes.

At the NFL Scouting Combine in March, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach characterized keeping Jones in Kansas City as a "priority." The pandemic has thrown a wrench into projections for the 2021 salary cap, and the Chiefs already have a significant chunk tied into core players, with an extension for quarterback Patrick Mahomes brewing.

"It's one of those things where you can sit there and just crunch those numbers any which way," Veach said in March, before the COVID-19 pandemic took full shape. "Now a lot of these moves will play into what happens with another move, so it's like a domino effect. So to sit here and say we can't do this, we can't do that, it's very hard to do unless you know the whole totality of the situation on what's going on.

"It doesn't mean it's going to be easy, but there are ways that we can get creative and do things. When you win your first Super Bowl in 50 years, you want to keep as many players on your roster as you can. And we're going to try like heck to do that."

The Chiefs drafted Jones in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He hails from Houston, Mississippi.