Mar 17, 2020 9:51 AM

Chiefs give Pro Bowl DT Chris Jones franchise tag

Posted Mar 17, 2020 9:51 AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are bringing back some major pieces from their Super Bowl championship team.

At least, for the time being.

The Chiefs placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones on Monday, then exercised club options on running back Damien Williams and linebacker Damien Wilson as the NFL’s negotiating period opened with a frenzy ahead of free agency later in the week.

The nonexclusive tag means Jones must be offered a one-year contract for at least $16,126,000, the average of the top five salary cap hits at defensive tackle for the previous five years. It also means that if Jones signs an offer sheet from another team, the Chiefs can match that offer or let him go and receive two first-round picks as compensation.

“We had dialogue last offseason. We had dialogue prior to the season starting,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said at the scouting combine. “Chris did a great job of blocking that all and tackling the season. He handled it like a true pro and we have an opportunity now that we’ve come around to pick up those talks and try to get something done.”

None of which means Jones will play for the Chiefs, especially at that salary.

The club is strapped for cap space heading into free agency and would like to sign Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes to a potentially record-setting extension. That might only be possible if the Chiefs signed Jones to a more flexible long-term deal — something the sides have discussed for more than a year but have failed to accomplish — or trade him to a team with more cap space and the need for a pass-rushing defensive tackle.

That would be similar to what the Seahawks did last season with defensive end Frank Clark. After tagging him, they sent him to the Chiefs for a pair of draft picks, and Kansas City proceeded to sign him to a $105.5 million, five-year extension.

Now, could the Chiefs potentially afford two pass rushers making that kind of money?

“It’s challenging,” Veach acknowledged, “but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and I think working through the breakdowns and dispersal 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 to see what exactly can be done.”

Jones had 15 1/2 sacks two seasons ago, which drove up his market for a long-term deal. He wound up skipping the entire offseason when that didn’t happen, but Jones returned in time for training camp and started 12 of 13 games.

He finished with nine sacks, but he was instrumental in helping the Chiefs win their first Super Bowl title since 1970. He was at the forefront of holding the 49ers’ ground game in check, and his ability to pressure quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo — and knock down a key pass attempt late in the game — helped preserve the Chiefs’ 31-20 victory.

The 27-year-old Williams, who missed five games to a rib injury last season, still ran for nearly 500 yards and five TDs while giving Mahomes a valuable playmaker out of the backfield. Williams was at his best in the postseason, too, carrying 46 times for 196 yards and four TDs while scoring the go-ahead and clinching touchdowns in the Super Bowl.

That performance in Miami made Williams’ return to the Chiefs a foregone conclusion.

“Damien was banged up just a little bit early. That’s what he’s capable of doing,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “As long as he’s healthy, that’s been the only thing the last couple years. But he stays healthy and he’ll do fine.”

Wilson started all 16 games and finished second on the team with 81 tackles last season. But his return was less certain because the Chiefs could have freed up $4.5 million with only $875,000 in dead money by letting him go.

The Chiefs also declined to pick up their option on backup offensive lineman Cameron Erving.

The moves made Monday are only the start of what should be a busy offseason for the Super Bowl champs. They have to decide what to do with wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who carries a prohibitive $21 million cap hit for next season, and continue to work with Mahomes’ agent Leigh Steinberg on a market-setting contract extension.

They also need to replenish their defensive backfield, either through trades, free agency or the draft. Cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland, Keith Reaser, Morris Claiborne and Kendall Fuller all become free agents this week, leaving the Chiefs with only Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton on the 53-man roster.

“I think Charvarius Ward and the things he was able to do the last two years speak for themselves. Rashad, because of the injuries he had, he stepped up and played an important role for us. We’re excited for both those guys,” Veach said, “but the volume will be low if we don’t retain all these corners. We’ll try to address that as we move into the offseason.”

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Mar 17, 2020 9:51 AM
MLB delays opening day to mid-May at earliest due to virus

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball pushed back opening day until mid-May at the earliest on Monday because of the new coronavirus after the federal government recommended restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement following a conference call with executives of the 30 teams.

“The clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Sunday that gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled or postponed across the country for the next eight weeks.

“The opening of the 2020 regular season will be pushed back in accordance with that guidance,” Manfred said.

No telling at this point when games will start. The All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on July 14 could be in jeopardy.

“We’re not going to announce an alternate opening day at this point. We’re going to have to see how things develop,” Manfred told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida. He didn’t want to speculate about the possibility of playing in empty stadiums, saying part of that decision would depend on timing.

MLB called off the rest of the spring training schedule on Thursday and said opening day, which had been scheduled for March 26, was postponed for at least two weeks. Teams and players agree that two to four weeks of additional spring training will be needed before the regular season begins.

“I’m just treating this as January of the winter time,” Arizona catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text to The Associated Press. “I am working out with the anticipation of baseball activities ramping up over the next month. But my mentality is back to preparing for the season.”

Under an agreement last week, between MLB and the players’ association, players are allowed to decide whether to stay at spring training or go home, but some teams have ignored that deal and told players to leave.

“There should be no organized activities in the camps,” Manfred told the Post-Dispatch. “We did agree with the MLBPA that spring training sites would remain open, but the thought there is with a skeleton crew, really to give players some place to use a gym, as opposed to being forced out into a public gym and the like. And we’re really encouraging players to make a decision as to where they want to be over an extended period of time and get to that location as soon as possible.”

The players’ association sent an email to agents on Monday saying that for players who went home or to their team’s regular-season city it would pay $1,100 allowances through April 9 to players on 40-man rosters as of March 13. That amount also would go to players with minor league contracts at big league spring training who were on 40-man rosters at the end of last season.

The union is negotiating with MLB over resetting the dates for players with opt-out clauses in their deals, and the sides are likely to agree on a roster freeze. They are discussing the possibility of payments to major league players who have not reached the point of big-money deals to make up for paychecks they won’t be getting in April and May.

This year marked the earliest opening day other than for international games. As it stood, Game 7 of the World Series would have been Oct. 28, and teams and players could push the postseason into November.

Any change to the 162-game schedule would necessitate bargaining over an array of issues, including when and how much players get paid and how much major league service they are credited for. Service time determines eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration.

Players made a counteroffer to MLB on Sunday, and management told the union it would not respond until Tuesday at the earliest.

Clubs also were told to call MLB if they wanted assistance with credit lines, a person familiar with Manfred’s call said, speaking on condition of anonymity because that detail was not announced.

MLB had not had a mass postponement of openers since 1995, when the season was shortened from 162 games to 144 following a 7 1/2-month players’ strike that also wiped out the 1994 World Series. Opening day was pushed back from April 2 to April 26 and player salaries were reduced by 11.1% because the games were lost due to a strike.

After a 32-day spring training lockout in 1990 caused opening day to be delayed a week until April 9, the season was extended by three days to allow each team a full 162-game schedule.

Baseball’s first strike lasted from April 1-13 in 1972, and the season started April 15. Teams played 153-156 games.

The 1918 season was cut short because of World War I. Provost Marshal Gen. Enoch Crowder announced a regulation on May 23 that men not involved in useful occupations appear before the draft board. The War Department initially did not rule baseball was non-essential under the “work or fight” order but Secretary of War Newton D. Baker announced on July 26 that baseball had to comply by Sept. 1. After some negotiation, the regular season ended Sept. 2 with teams playing 123-131 games, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago Cubs in a World Series played from Sept. 5-11.

Also Monday, MLB and the union announced a joint donation of $1 million to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels America, aimed at fighting hunger resulted from school closures and quarantines.