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Chris Jones’s intended return date is about getting credit for 2023 contract year

When Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones vows to stay away until Week 8 of the regular season, it’s not some random date that he pulled out of the air.

For Jones, and any player under contract who is looking to satisfy a contract year and move closer to free agency, Week 8 is the magic number.

It accounts both for the minimum number of games to be on the roster and the maximum number of games the player can be placed on a roster-exempt list. It shows that Jones’s strategy is to show up as late as possible, finish the season, get credit for the last year of his current contract, and qualify for free agency in 2024.

The only flaw in the strategy comes from the availability of the franchise tag. But Jones could hold out under the tag without financial punishment, in an effort to force a long-term contract or a trade. And he could show up again in Week 8 of next season, play part of the year, make part of his money, and do it all over again.

Jones will lose $7.5 million if he skips seven regular-season weeks. He’ll also owe more than $2 million in non-waivable fines.

But he apparently doesn’t care. He knows this is his last shot at a major payday. His last chance to break the bank.

Whether he’s serious about staying away for seven regular-season games remains to be seen. It’s definitely one of the available options, in lieu of simply accepting the best offer the Chiefs are willing to make — and relenting to the potential effort to get more players (like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce) to tolerate being underpaid in the name of chasing championships.