With the help of Over the Cap, Chiefs Digest insider Matt Derrick cleared up the confusion on September 14, stating: “We finally have the official answer to the Chris Jones incentive mystery. The Chiefs made the $6.75m in incentives part of an option bonus and added four void years on the contract. Jones currently hits $1.35 [million] toward the cap in 2024-27.”
Derrick added that “for any of the incentives not reached in 2023, the cap hit in future years can be refunded after the season. So, all of the incentives are considered Likely To Be Earned but the option bonus is spread out over the next five seasons.”
Finally, he concluded: “Chris Jones now has a cap hit of $26.8 million for 2023 and hits [of] $1.35 million against the cap in 2024-27… Tip of the cap to @Jason_OTC and OverTheCap for finally cracking this nut for us all.”
Chiefs’ Joe Thuney Sheds $8.7 Million in Cap Space for Chris Jones Signing
Earlier this week on September 12, ESPN NFL insider Field Yates also reported that “the Chiefs needed to create some cap space with the return of DL Chris Jones to the roster. In order to do so, they restructured the contract of G Joe Thuney, creating $8.7M in 2023 cap space.”
It was a good team move from the underrated veteran starter. According to Over the Cap, Thuney’s 2023 hit is now approximately $13.405 million, while his next two cap hits in 2024 and 2025 are approximately $26.972 million.
Those two adjustments bring Kansas City out of the negative on the year, which would allow them to activate Jones from the exempt list this weekend. Over the Cap currently projects KC’s total 2023 cap space at just under $2.013 million.
That number ranks second worst in the NFL, just above the division rival Denver Broncos.
Explaining Usage of ‘Void Years’ for NFL Cap Relief
The addition of void years helped lower Jones’ cap hit significantly in 2023. If you’re unfamiliar with this cap relief tactic used by NFL general managers, Eric Eager of Sumer Sports explained it for fans in April of 2023.
“Void years are contract years on which the player will never play,” Eager began. “They are placeholders for prorated signing bonus money, which can be assigned when the void years are created or created through a later contract restructure. Since a bonus can be prorated over a maximum of five seasons, the highest number of void years that can be added to a contract is five minus the number of years left on the contract the player is currently on.”
“Once a player reaches the void years portion of their contract and they are not re-signed to a new contract for that team, all the bonus money prorated onto the void years is accelerated to that year for cap purposes,” he continued.
In simpler terms, void years provide an NFL franchise with short-term cap relief while stamping them with dead money in the future — let’s say Jones walks out on the Chiefs in free agency next spring. If he’s extended, this future dead money would then be restructured into the new deal.
“The benefits for players, while less clear, do exist,” Eager wrote. “Shorter deals can help a player more than a longer deal when the player remains healthy, continues to produce at a high level, and a market for their services still exists.”
More evidence that Jones is betting on himself in 2023 and could look to max out in free agency next spring, assuming the Chiefs don’t spend an expensive franchise tag on him before the new NFL league year begins.