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Chiefs use franchise tag on cornerback L'Jarius Sneed as work on Chris Jones deal continues

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs placed the franchise tag on L'Jarius Sneed on Monday, though it is uncertain whether that means one of the top cornerbacks due to hit free agency will remain with the Super Bowl champions next season.

The Chiefs entered the offseason with Sneed and All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones preparing to hit free agency, and general manager Brett Veach made it clear that he hoped to keep both of them.

But the tag number of $19.8 million for Sneed is far more palatable than the roughly $32 million that would be owed to Jones, making the choice between the players an easy one.

The deadline to use the franchise tag is Tuesday.

Now comes the hard part: Will the Chiefs be able to work out a long-term contract with Jones after failing to do so the previous two offseasons, and can they likewise sign Sneed to a lengthy deal that would lower his salary cap number?

The more likely scenario is that the Chiefs, who used the non-exclusive tag that allows Sneed to talk with other teams, would try to trade him for draft capital.

That would give the Chiefs financial flexibility to keep Jones on the team while addressing several of their more pressing concerns, including openings at left tackle and wide receiver.

“We're always looking to get better, whether it be receiver, offensive lineman, defensive backs,” Veach said last week at the NFL's scouting combine. “Any opportunity we can make our team better, we'll do that. We put a high priority on the depth of our roster, so we'll attack that much like we do all the positions and try to get the best players we can.”

The Chiefs have used the franchise tag six times over the past decade, and in three of those cases, they worked out a long-term deal. Only one time did they trade a player, and that was pass rusher Dee Ford, whom Kansas City sent to the 49ers for a second-round pick — while also landing Frank Clark, whom the Seahawks had tagged and traded.

The 27-year-old Sneed is widely considered one of the top cornerbacks potentially available.

The 2020 fourth-round pick was regularly tasked with covering the opponent's top wide receiver, regardless of where he lined up on the field. The only player to catch more than two passes in a game was Davante Adams of the Raiders, and Sneed did not allow a touchdown catch as the nearest defender until a divisional round win over the Bills in the playoffs.

Sneed has 10 interceptions in 57 regular-season games and another in 13 playoff games, which have earned him two Super Bowl rings.

The Chiefs began what could be a busy offseason last week, when they released wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and saved about $12 million in salary cap space. They can use some of that savings, along with a cap that was higher than expected, to work out a deal with Jones, who played last season on an incentive-laden one-year deal.

Jones had skipped the entire offseason after failing to secure a long-term deal, and he held out through Week 1 before signing the contract. He wound up tying for the team lead with 10 1/2 sacks, earned his third Super Bowl ring when the Chiefs beat the 49ers in Las Vegas, then raised eyebrows afterward when he talked about helping them win a third straight title next season.

“Love Chris,” Veach said. “We tried really hard to get something done. We didn't. But we got together right after that Detroit game, we had a great talk, both parties want to be here. We'll get to work. That's certainly a guy we want back and love and we want to have finish his career in Kansas City.”

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Dave Skretta, The Associated Press