The Cardinals and Patriots have agreed to a trade that will send defensive end Chandler Jones to Arizona. In exchange for Jones, the Pats will receive offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick.
The Cardinals had been seeking an impact pass rusher this offseason, and they’ll get one in Jones. In 2015, the 26-year-old appeared in (and started) 15 games for the Patriots, totaling 44 tackles to go along with a career-high 12.5 sacks. The former first-round pick also added four forced fumbles, two passes defended, and his first career interception, earning a Pro Bowl spot for the first time.
Jones had been one of several players eligible for an extension and in line for a huge payday in New England, so it will now be the Cardinals’ responsibility to lock up the pass rusher on his next deal. Currently, Jones is under contract on a fifth-year option worth nearly $7.8MM in fully guaranteed salary for the 2016 season. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency next winter if he’s not extended or franchised.
The Cardinals reportedly made a run at Jason Pierre-Paul and did their homework on Olivier Vernon – before his market exploded – as part of their hunt for a pass rusher this offseason. By acquiring Jones, they get a player who will be more affordable than those top free agents for 2016, and one who has also been more productive in recent years. Since his rookie season in 2012, Jones has piled up 36 sacks, compared to 29 for Vernon and 22 for JPP.
As for the Patriots, they also receive a former first-round pick in the swap — Cooper went seventh overall in the 2013 draft. After missing his rookie season due to a broken fibula, the 26-year-old has started just 11 games for the Cardinals in the past two years, failing to carve out a long-term role in Arizona. However, he still has plenty of talent, and could play either guard or center on the Patriots’ line.
New England also adds an early draft pick in the deal to help make up for the team’s lost first-rounder. The Patriots’ own second-rounder falls at 60th overall, while the Cards held the 61st pick, so the Pats will now have back-to-back selections midway through day two, and it’s fair to wonder if they’ll use one of those picks on a pass rusher to help make up for the loss of Jones.
By making the swap, the Patriots will clear Jones’ entire $7.799MM cap number from their books for the 2016 season, replacing that figure with Cooper’s more affordable $2.389MM cap hit. The move signals that New England will likely focus on locking up its other top extension candidates on defense, including Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, and Malcolm Butler.
It’s also worth considering that Jones was involved in an unusual off-field story in January, when he reportedly had a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana and required medical attention. While that may have been an isolated incident, the league’s strict policy on substances of abuse could have contributed to the Patriots’ reluctance to lock up Jones to a lucrative long-term deal.
Adam Schefter and Dianna Marie Russini of ESPN.com (Twitter link) first reported that a trade was agreed upon. Both teams have since confirmed the deal via press release. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.