As the NFL’s clock ticks toward the end of offseason business and the start of regular-season games, three of the league’s premier pass-rushers still have looming financial affairs to complete.
In pursuit of lucrative contract extensions, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, Carolina Panthers linebacker Brian Burns and Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones are either holding out (Bosa, Jones) or holding in (Burns).
Each situation is unique, but all three absences loom large, as Bosa, Burns and Jones aim to land deals that make them among the highest-paid players at their positions.
ESPN reporters Nick Wagoner, David Newton, Adam Teicher and Jeremy Fowler take a look at what’s happening with Bosa, Burns and Jones with Week 1 upon us:
Current contract details
Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers: Bosa enters the final season on his rookie contract after the Niners exercised the fifth-year option on him in 2022. If Bosa were to play this season under the option, he would make $17,859,000, all of which is fully guaranteed as long as he reports this week. — Wagoner
Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers: The 16th pick of the 2019 draft enters the final year of his rookie deal with the Panthers that will pay him $16 million after the team picked up his fifth-year option in 2022. That currently ranks 12th among edge rushers; this for a player coming off a career-high 12.5 sacks and his second straight Pro Bowl selection. — Newton
Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs: Jones is headed into the final season of a four-year, $80 million contract signed in 2020. The contract now makes him by average per year the ninth-highest paid interior defensive lineman. Jones is scheduled to make a base salary of $19.5 million this season. He forfeited a workout bonus of $500,000 because of his absence from the Chiefs’ offseason program. — Teicher
What do they want in a new deal?
Bosa: Both sides have kept the details of these negotiations quiet, but it’s reasonable to believe Bosa is aiming to become not only the highest-paid edge rusher but the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history. Bosa said after last season that he didn’t “necessarily” want or expect that, but agent Brian Ayrault has previously negotiated such deals for Nick’s brother Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald set the standard for the highest average annual value ($31.67 million) and the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ T.J. Watt has the high-water mark for defenders in fully guaranteed money at $80 million. Bosa’s deal likely will surpass one or both. — Wagoner
Burns: He said wants to be among the highest-paid edge rushers in the NFL. Not the highest, but among the highest. That currently puts him in the $23 million to $28 million range, but that will change if Bosa gets past Donald’s $31.67 million per year. The Panthers would prefer to keep Burns’ average closer to the $23 million range, but Burns is believed to want closer to the $27 million to $28 million range, which is why the two sides aren’t close, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. It’s hard to imagine the Panthers and Burns coming to terms until Bosa sets the market. — Newton
Jones: Negotiating a new deal for a top defensive tackle is difficult because of the odd situation among existing contracts at the top of the market. There is a gap of more than $7 million per season between the highest-paid tackle (Donald’s $31.67 million) and the second highest (Quinnen Williams of the New York Jets). If Jones wants to be in Donald’s range and the Chiefs expect the contract to come in slightly above that of Williams, there can still be a sizable gap. — Teicher
How did they end up in this situation?
Bosa: Given the Niners’ track record of getting market-setting deals done before camp with stars like linebacker Fred Warner and tight end George Kittle, there was reason to believe Bosa would get done in a similar timeline. But this deal is more complicated for two reasons: It involves far more money and the Niners have a more difficult cap situation to fit Bosa’s salaries into than they did when they signed Kittle and Warner. San Francisco also has a preference for adding guaranteed base salaries that trigger in early April, which has been a sticking point in other negotiations, most notably with Kittle. — Wagoner
Burns: The Panthers turned down an offer of two first-round picks (2024 and 2025) for Burns last season before the trade deadline, which was more than they got for running back Christian McCaffrey (2023 second-, third- and fourth-round picks, 2024 fifth-round pick). That sent the message to Burns and his camp that he was the most valuable player on the team. Then Burns had a career-high 12.5 sacks, made his second Pro Bowl, and the team publicly said he was key to their switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme. So from a leverage standpoint, Burns has it all. He participated in all of training camp, believing a deal would get done, but waiting for Bosa to set the market has stalled negotiations. — Newton
Jones: The Chiefs have shown discipline in recent contract negotiations with many star players, reaching a point when they wouldn’t budge any further, and that’s the case in their talks with Jones. This philosophy has lost them a few players, most notably receiver Tyreek Hill last year. The Chiefs seem surprised that Jones has taken his holdout this far, and it’s natural to wonder whether they would have tried to trade Jones during the offseason, as they did with Hill with one season remaining on his contract last year, had they known he would skip at least one game this season. — Teicher
What would each missed game cost them?
Bosa: For any game Bosa doesn’t play, he would lose out on a game check worth $1,050,529.41. The 49ers could also fine Bosa up to $40,000 per practice missed, but general manager John Lynch has already made clear the team intends to waive all fines, an option it has because Bosa is on the fifth-year option. — Wagoner
Burns: Beyond fines by the team, which haven’t come up yet, Burns would lose about $900,000 per game if he doesn’t play. It’s hard to imagine it would get to this. Burns participated in all of training camp and didn’t begin his hold-in until last week. He’s participating in team meetings, so the next few days are critical. — Newton
Jones: With his base salary of $19.5 million, each game check for Jones is worth about $1.15 million. Jones hinted on social media recently that if he and the Chiefs couldn’t agree on terms of a contract, he might hold out until Week 8. Told by a fan that would be a steep price to pay, Jones replied, “I can afford it.” — Teicher
What would their absence mean to the team?
Bosa: The Niners’ hopes of breaking through and winning the Super Bowl would take a significant hit if Bosa, who is arguably the team’s most important player, misses extended time. He’s the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and history has proved that the Niners are dominant when he plays and far less so when he doesn’t. Since Bosa entered the league in 2019, San Francisco is 43-17 in games he’s played and 5-10 in those he hasn’t (including playoffs). — Wagoner
Burns: Everything. That’s not overstating it. Outside of Justin Houston, who is 34 years old, the Panthers don’t have a proven edge rusher, which is key in the 3-4 scheme. This could go from a potential top-10 defense to the lower half of the league. Losing the team’s best player and leader would also be a disruption to the locker room. Veteran inside linebacker Shaq Thompson said it best: “Everybody upstairs knows he better be out there by Wednesday. He’s a big factor in this defense. He’s the one it really starts with.” — Newton
Jones: It’s difficult to see how the Chiefs can adequately cover for the loss of Jones, their leader in sacks in each of the past five seasons. They were second in the league in sacks last season with 55 based on the pass-rush success of Jones, who tied a career high with 15.5. His absence is compounded by the six-game suspension given to one of the Chiefs’ other top pass-rushers, Charles Omenihu. The Chiefs were concerned enough about their depth at defensive tackle that on cutdown day, they traded with the Las Vegas Raiders for Neil Farrell. — Teicher
How long could these situations last? Here’s what Fowler is hearing
Bosa: Bosa has enormous leverage, which could fuel his patience to hold out as long as necessary. He was the best defensive player in football last year. While still under his rookie contract, his fines for missing camp can be waived. It seems pretty clear he’s aiming for the Donald benchmark of $31.67 million per year, and if anyone deserves to hit that mark right now, it’s Bosa. The 49ers know this, which is why they could try to wrap this up sooner than later. But for now, Bosa has conviction to wait.
Burns: This one is tricky because Burns has said all along he plans to play games. He showed up to training camp in good faith. But the sides were still far apart after months of discussions. The nuclear options would be to request a trade or decide to miss games, but there’s no hard evidence Burns would go that far. The sense is he will play games, based on his previous comments.
Jones: The Chiefs have braced to be without Jones for the early part of the season, and Jones’ conviction will be tested. He has incurred more than $2 million in fines that can’t be waived, and he forfeits $1.1 million for each game he misses. At some point, the negotiating gap between the club and the player — believed to be at least a few million annually — can’t offset the losses for Jones, even if he ultimately gets what he wants. But he’s gone this far and believes wholeheartedly that he’s closer to the top of the market than the rest of the defensive tackles, so perhaps he’s willing to wait a few more weeks.
Source : ESPN