Justin Madubuike, Chris Jones

NFL Star Players Justin Madubuike, Chris Jones Ink Record Resetting Deals

The deals serve to give some stability to their respective teams, albeit in completely different manners.

Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike’s record contract of $98 million, including $75.5 million in guaranteed money, only stood for a day because the Kansas City Chiefs signed their long-time and arguably the best defensive tackle in the league, Chris Jones, to a bigger deal. Jones will receive $95 million in guaranteed money, and his yearly salary eclipses that of Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who set the benchmark at his position at $31.6 million per year in 2022.

As ESPN and The Guardian reported, the deals serve to give some stability to their respective teams, albeit in completely different manners. The Chiefs, who repeated as Super Bowl champions this past February, have been seeking to keep their star defensive players in town; in addition to signing Jones to a long-term deal, they also franchise-tagged their star cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, which puts him in a similar situation to Jones this past season. Sneed’s tag, however, is non-exclusive, allowing him to talk to other teams and perhaps explore trade options. The defense, which had been a question mark in previous seasons for the Chiefs, turned into one of its greatest strengths as the team won despite the poor play of its wide receivers, largely because of Jones’ dynamic play in the trenches. 

Meanwhile, the Ravens see Madubuike as a building block for a defense that might look different next season. It helps free up cap space for the team to address other positions of need like defensive end, outside linebacker, or the offensive line in free agency. Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta released an enthusiastic statement on March 8 to ESPN, celebrating the signing of their defensive lineman.

“Justin is one of the best defensive tackles in the entire NFL and a cornerstone on our defense,” DeCosta said. “This is a great way to start the new league year!”

Jones celebrated his signing with a quick tweet, “KC….5 more years of greatness! 3x” Although Jones’ yearly salary is higher than Donald’s, in terms of guaranteed money, he sits fourth in the league behind the San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa and his brother, Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, followed by Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Previously, Jones’ negotiations had gotten tense, to the point where he held out of training camp and missed one game of the regular season before coming to an agreement with Kansas City that essentially functioned as a franchise tag.

As Jones’ tweet alludes to, Kansas City is aiming to become the first team in the NFL to three-peat since the 1965-1967 iterations of the Green Bay Packers. As long as the team has Patrick Mahomes under center, tight end Travis Kelce, and Jones on the defensive line, they will be hard to beat if they can get into the playoffs again.

Baltimore, of course, is seeking to keep the Chiefs out of Super Bowl contention, and with their own high-powered offense and two-time league MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson plus a stout defense of their own, they are one of the few teams that are built well enough to challenge Kansas City’s run at history. With free agency and the NFL Draft looming, both teams could improve their teams with strong drafting and smart free-agent acquisitions, setting the table for another exciting season in the NFL.

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