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Chiefs' Chris Jones gambled on himself this season and is taking his wins all the way to the bank

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It seems altogether fitting that Chris Jones will chase a third Super Bowl ring in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks.

The Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle made some bold bets on himself this season.

Jones went bust on the first one, holding out through the offseason, training camp and into the regular season in the hopes of landing a lucrative contract extension. Jones missed a Week 1 loss to Detroit before he finally agreed to a reworked one-year deal that in some ways was worse than the contract he was supposed to have played under this season.

But the new deal included a number of provisions — gambles, if you will — that Jones has been able to cash in.

Along with a $19.5 million base value, Jones' contract called for an extra $1 million for playing 35% of snaps, another $1 million for hitting 50%, and yet another $1.25 million when he hit 10 sacks. He celebrated the last of those in an otherwise meaningless regular-season finale against the Chargers with a wild sideline celebration with his teammates.

“I was happy for him,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said with a smile. “We all were.”

Then came the longest of longshot parlays, one that seemed outlandish at first and downright ridiculous midway through the season, when the Chiefs had lost five of eight games and looked nothing like a championship team: Jones would earn another $1 million if he was voted an All-Pro and managed to help the Chiefs reach their fourth Super Bowl in five seasons.

Check. And check.

With their win over the Ravens last weekend, which sent the Chiefs to Las Vegas to face the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium, the gregarious Jones added yet another bonus to his rapidly swelling bank account.

“You've got to take a second and look back at everything you had to go through,” said Jones, who had an important defensive deflection in the game in Baltimore. “I never think it's about the destination but the journey to get to the destination. When you look at the journey we had to take, it's a huge appreciation for that.”

Jones has been a game-wrecker since the moment the Chiefs chose him in the second round of the 2016 draft, a year before Patrick Mahomes arrived and truly altered the trajectory of the franchise. Jones started 11 games as a rookie, had 6 1/2 sacks the next year, then broke through with 15 1/2 during the 2018 season while earning second-team All-Pro recognition.

The following year, Jones helped the Chiefs beat the 49ers — coincidentally — for their first Super Bowl title in 50 years. And he had another 15 1/2 sacks last year, when the Chiefs beat the Eagles for another Lombardi Trophy.

Jones hoped that big year would earn him a long-term contract approaching that of Aaron Donald, the three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year for the Rams.

The Chiefs and his representatives were in regular contact, but a deal never appeared close to materializing. That became increasingly clear as Jones sat out the entire preseason, and when the Chiefs began to prepare for their season-opener against Detroit, which Jones ultimately watched from a suite in Arrowhead Stadium.

Jones eventually signed an incentive-laden one-year deal after racking up millions in fines and losing $1 million in a missed game check. But the new contract gave him a chance to earn some of that money back, and Jones got right back to work. He had 1 1/2 sacks in Week 2 against Jacksonville and hasn't slowed down, helping Kansas City rank No. 2 in total defense this season.

Jones is due to hit free agency after the Super Bowl, though, and while the Chiefs could conceivably lure him back, it doesn't bode well that they have repeatedly failed to reach a long-term deal. Putting the franchise tag on Jones is an option, too, but that would come at a contract figure that would deal a crippling blow to their salary cap.

So, the most likely scenario is that Jones is preparing to play his final game for the Chiefs.

In the Super Bowl. In Las Vegas.

Just where he bet it would end.

“He’s had a phenomenal season," Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis said. "First team All-Pro, he’s got all the accolades — he just opens so much stuff, and he requires so much attention. Aside from all the stuff he does on the field, he’s a great teammate, great leader, just such a great presence to have around. We love Chris.”

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