Some of the biggest deals in NFL free agency could actually be re-signings

FILE - Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons is seen during warmups before an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, in Detroit. The Denver Broncos are releasing safety Justin Simmons in the fallout from the Russell Wilson separation, a person familiar with the move told The Associated Press on Thursday, March 7, 2024. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

FILE – Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons is seen during warmups before an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, in Detroit. The Denver Broncos are releasing safety Justin Simmons in the fallout from the Russell Wilson separation, a person familiar with the move told The Associated Press on Thursday, March 7, 2024. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

Chris Jones won’t have to wait so long to cash in this year.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ star defensive tackle will be among the headliners when free agency opens next week and he could eclipse Aaron Donald’s three-year, $96 million deal that made Donald the league’s highest-paid defensive tackle.

Teams can begin negotiating Monday and can sign players starting Wednesday.

Jones held out last year, missing the entire offseason plus the opener and a $1.1 million weekly paycheck, in a contract dispute that resulted in a restructure of the final year of his contract.

Although the Chiefs retained the right to franchise tag Jones in 2024, they decided to place that tag instead on cornerback L’Jarius Sneed at $19.8 million.

Call them priorities 1A and 1B for Chiefs GM Brett Veach, the architect of the NFL’s latest dynasty with a trio of Lombardi Trophies since 2020.

“You’d like to … pay all the guys and it’s tough because the more you win, the more you’ve got to pay players, and obviously when you have this amount of success you’re paying a lot of players a lot of money,” Veach said.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to figure something out but every free agent is different, unique and crazy. But we do have one tag and … our goal is to get both those players done and then work down the rest of our roster.”

The 31 other teams looking to knock the Chiefs from their pedestal will begin plugging holes with veterans next week.

The team that made the most racket in free agency a year ago won’t be noisy this year.

The Denver Broncos signed 14 veterans to contracts totaling a whopping $242,647,500, which was only slightly more than the $242,588,236 contract extension Russell Wilson signed less than a year earlier.

Now, the Broncos are moving on from Wilson, a separation that saddles them with a record $85 million in dead cap charges, crimping any designs on another spending spree even with the salary cap’s historic spike.

“We can’t do that every year,” said Broncos general manager George Paton, who began the roster purge Thursday by releasing star safety Justin Simmons to save $14.5 million.

One truism about free agency is it’s usually a whole lot less risky to re-sign one’s own free agents than to acquire other teams’ castoffs, misfits, pluggers or stars.

With that in mind, here’s a free agent from every team that front offices want to keep from calling the moving trucks:

ARIZONA CARDINALS

WR Marquise Brown has had a star-crossed stint in Arizona but he has flashed when he and Kyler Murray are healthy.

ATLANTA FALCONS

EDGE Calais Campbell. He’s valued more for his leadership at age 37, although he did post 6 1/2 sacks last season.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

DL Justin Madubuike’s 13 sacks and 33 QB hits led all defensive tackles. Baltimore put its $22.1 million franchise tag on him.

BUFFALO BILLS

EDGE A.J. Epenesa is a consistent, improving player on a team whose purge of players this week cut deep into its core.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

EDGE Brian Burns, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, received the franchise tag, which is worth $24 million.

CHICAGO BEARS

CB Jaylon Johnson, a second-team All-Pro, received the franchise tag, which will pay him $19.8 million in 2024.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

WR Tee Higgins received the franchise tag that will pay him just under $22 million next season.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Joe Flacco is the most valuable backup QB in the NFL and Deshaun Watson is recovering from shoulder surgery.

DALLAS COWBOYS

LT Tyron Smith is 33 and often hurt, but he gave up one sack in ’23 and remains the NFL’s top pass-blocking tackle.

DENVER BRONCOS

C Lloyd Cushenberry III is one of the NFL’s best, but Luke Wattenberg or Alex Forsyth could step in if he bolts Denver.

DETROIT LIONS

G Graham Glasgow had a resurgence in 2023 in his return to Detroit after a three-year stint in Denver.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

KR-CB Keisean Nixon was an All-Pro kick returner in each of the last two seasons. No more one-year “prove it” deals.

HOUSTON TEXANS

EDGE Jonathan Greenard collected 12½ sacks last season as the Texans returned to relevance.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

WR Michael Pittman is coming off his first 100-catch season and received the franchise tag worth $21.8 million in ’24.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

EDGE Josh Allen received the $24 million franchise tag after setting franchise record with 17½ sacks last season.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

DT Chris Jones and CB L’Jarius Sneed. Of course KC gets two mentions here. They’re the team of the 2020s, after all.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

OG Kevin Dotson went from an afterthought in Pittsburgh to the NFL’s best run-blocking guard in 2023.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

K Cameron Dicker has nailed 52 of 55 career FG attempts and absolutely crushed his Pro Bowl campaign video.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

C Andre James will get another big salary bump after seeing his pay jump from $505,000 in ‘19 to $6.5 million in ’23.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

DT Christian Wilkins, a five-year pro, enjoyed a breakout 2023 season with a career-best nine sacks.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

QB Kirk Cousins. Even at 36 in ’24 and with a repaired Achilles, his exit would shake up the Vikings and the NFL QB market.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Safety Kyle Dugger received the Patriots’ transition tag, which will pay him $13.8 million in 2024.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Jameis Winston provides a spark whenever he subs for starter Derek Carr, much like Flacco does with Watson out.

NEW YORK GIANTS

FS Xavier McKinney picked off three passes and didn’t allow a single TD catch in 2023, solidifying his topflight status.

NEW YORK JETS

EDGE Bryce Huff was one of the few Jets who had a stellar 2023 with a career-high 10 sacks and a budding reputation.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

RB D’Andre Swift posted his first 1,000-yard season and made the Pro Bowl in ’23 after three years in Detroit.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QB Mason Rudolph was terrific subbing for Kenny Pickett in ‘23 and could provide similar support for a new QB in ’24.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

DT Leonard Williams is a 10th-year pro who has 43½ career sacks and averages 19.2 QB hits a year.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

EDGE Chase Young, 2020’s second overall pick, showed glimpses of greatness after his ‘23 trade from Washington.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

QB Baker Mayfield has finally arrived. He set career highs last year in accuracy (64.3%), yards (4,044) and TDs (28).

TENNESSEE TITANS

RB Derrick Henry, 30, was the NFL’s second-leading rusher in ’23 with 1,167 yards and 12 TDs, but seems set to leave.

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

CB Kendall Fuller was the only bright spot on Washington’s dreadful defense in ’23 and should thrive under Dan Quinn.

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With contributions from AP Sports Writer Michael Marot.

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