Since Chandler Jones requested a trade ahead of last season, not much has emerged about his prospects of staying in Arizona on another new contract. He played out his previous deal and is now a month from testing the market for the first time.
Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said Friday he “would love” to have Jones back. Of course, there are some complications. Jones’ age, the fact that he has been previously franchise-tagged and other teams’ potential willingness to outbid Arizona stand to affect Jones’ status with the team.
“I can tell you we love Chandler and we would love to have him back,” Bidwill said during an appearance on Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta (via ArizonaSports.com). “The devil’s in the details. I’ll leave that up to [GM] Steve [Keim] and Chandler’s representatives to work on. But we love Chandler and what he’s done for us in the past and hopefully in the future as well.”
Jones did not appear to take Bidwill’s comments at face value, firing off some laughing emojis on Twitter shortly after. Some bad blood has been in the mix here for a bit. The Cardinals refused to adjust Jones’ deal last year, and the talented outside linebacker skipped minicamp and requested a trade in response. Jones was back with the team for the regular season and forced six fumbles, the second-most he has has tallied in a season, en route to his fourth Pro Bowl.
The Cards tagged Jones in 2017, and the NFL’s tag formula would make re-tagging Jones a tough proposition for the team. Because Jones’ cap number came in at $20.2MM last season, his tag figure would be 120% of that — as opposed to the standard linebacker tag, which is set to come in around $18MM — and cost the Cards nearly $25MM. This puts the Cardinals to a difficult decision, given Jones’ impact.
Acquired from the Patriots via trade in 2016, Jones has thrived in the desert. Jones has three double-digit sack seasons, including a 10.5-sack slate in 2021, and two All-Pro nods as a Cardinal. The Cards’ hopes of a Jones-J.J. Watt tandem fizzled, after another major injury sidelined Watt for much of the season, but Watt remains under contract for next season. Jones will turn 31 this weekend and missed much of the 2020 season due to a biceps injury, further complicating matters for the Cards, who also have Zach Ertz, Christian Kirk, James Conner and Chase Edmonds set for free agency.
Arizona losing Jones would represent a major blow. The Cards let Haason Reddick walk after his breakthrough contract year and, talent notwithstanding, cannot count on Watt. The team’s other outside linebacker starter, Markus Golden, is under contract for one more season.