Chandler Jones (DE)

Cardinals Franchise Tag Chandler Jones

As expected, the Cardinals have placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Chandler Jones. The Cardinals had until March 1 to make the call, but they are taking care of business early.

In theory, the non-exclusive tag allows room for Jones to land elsewhere if he signs another team’s offer sheet and the Cardinals opt not to match. However, any team signing Jones away would have to give Arizona two first-round picks. That’s a steep price to pay on top of whatever contract he commands. Therefore, Jones will likely play 2017 under a one-year, $16.955MM tender unless the two sides reach agreement on a longer pact between now and July.Chandler Jones

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In January, coach Bruce Arians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Weeks later, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill gave additional confirmation of those plans.

We’re not going to mess around with that,” Bidwill said with regards to Jones. “He’s a great pass rusher, but if we can’t agree to terms that work for us, we’re just going to franchise him. His people know that.”

In my most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, I had Jones as the No. 2 player available, second only to quarterback Kirk Cousins. Our defensive rankings by position naturally had Jones as the top edge rusher available. Now, that mantle belongs to teammate Calais Campbell.

Jones now becomes the first player to get hit with the franchise tag in the 2017 offseason. More players will receive the designation in the next 48 hours.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2017 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

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Starting today, NFL teams will be able to place franchise and transition tags on potential free agents for the first time. While the window for franchise tags is open, most clubs won’t actually tag any players right away.

As our list of important dates for the 2017 offseason shows, the deadline for teams to assign those tags doesn’t come until Wednesday, March 1st. Usually, when it comes to NFL contract discussions, deadlines spur action, so teams will wait until that deadline approaches to officially use franchise tags, once it becomes clear that they won’t be able to strike a longer-term deal yet with their respective free-agents-to-be.

Even though the action might not heat up for a couple more weeks, it’s worth taking a closer look at what to expect during 2017’s franchise tag period. The NFL hasn’t officially announced the salary cap figure for 2017, but former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com recently projected the 2017 franchise tag salaries based on a presumed $168MM cap. Here are the expected non-exclusive franchise tag amounts:

  • Quarterback: $21.395MM
  • Running back: $12.377MM
  • Wide receiver: $15.826MM
  • Tight end: $9.894MM
  • Offensive line: $14.444MM
  • Defensive end: $16.955MM
  • Defensive tackle: $13.468MM
  • Linebacker: $14.754MM
  • Cornerback: $14.297MM
  • Safety: $10.961MM
  • Punter/kicker: $4.863MM

(For a refresher on the characteristics of the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags, as well as the transition tag, be sure to check out PFR’s glossary entry on the subject.)

Here’s our look at the most likely candidates to be tagged, along with several more outside possibilities:

Virtual Locks:

Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals: Maybe Jones should headline a category titled “Super Duper Virtual Locks.” In January, coach Bruce "<strongArians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Then, just this week, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill offered additional confirmation of that plan. The $16.955MM tag will be applied to Jones in the next couple of weeks and the two sides will then have until the summer to work out a long-term deal. The odds of a longer pact coming together seem pretty good, considering the Cardinals knew what they were getting themselves into when they traded for Jones last year.

Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admits that Short will “probably” be tagged and, unlike ex-teammate Josh Norman, Short doesn’t have a problem with it. The 28-year-old was the third-best defensive tackle in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Panthers will gladly pay him ~$13.5MM on a one-year deal. A multi-year agreement could require an average annual value of $17MM, so our early guess is that Short will wind up actually playing on the tender.


Le’Veon Bell
, RB, Steelers: We’ve known for a while now that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell. For all of his off-the-field headaches, Bell still stands as one of the league’s most dynamic running backs and a one-year, $12.3MM deal would suit Pittsburgh just fine. Sometime after the tag is in place, we’re expecting the two sides to agree on a long-term deal. As I wrote in our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, Bell will top LeSean McCoy‘s ~$8MM AAV and Doug Martin‘s $15MM in guarantees on a new multiyear pact. Of course, other factors such as cash flow will be pivotal in talks, particularly given the limited shelf life of running backs.
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Cardinals Prez: We Won’t Let C. Jones Go

Back in January, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters point blank that the team is willing to place the franchise tag on the star defensive end if the two sides cannot agree on a long-term deal. If that wasn’t clear enough, we now have additional confirmation from team president Michael Bidwill. Chandler Jones

[RELATED: Zach Links’ 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings 2.0]

We’re not going to mess around with that,” Bidwill said (via the team website). “He’s a great pass rusher, but if we can’t agree to terms that work for us, we’re just going to franchise him. His people know that.”

This year, the non-exclusive tag for defensive ends is expected to come in at $16.955MM. Ideally, the Cardinals would like to sign Jones to a multi-year deal that will keep him in place through his prime, but the tag will be their fallback if they can’t achieve that.

Given Jones’ talent, position, and age (26), his reps will push for astronomical figures on a brand new deal with a favorable cashflow like Olivier Vernon‘s free agent pact with the Giants. The Cardinals were aware of the cost factor when they traded for Jones last season, but they’ll only go so far this spring given the leverage of the first-time tag.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings 2.0

For 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams, the offseason is already underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the early January edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

Free Agent Power Rankings 2 (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): Cousins may not be the best player on this list, but he will come away with the most guaranteed money of any free agent this offseason. Quarterbacks are perpetually in high demand and short supply and as a result Cousins could become one of the league’s three highest paid signal callers. Because Washington has already used the franchise tag on Cousins, a repeat would cost them a whopping $23.94MM for 2017. The belief is that Cousins is seeking that $23.94MM number as an AAV goal. There has been talk of the Redskins shopping their star QB, but the team has since publicly stated its intention of locking him up to a long-term dealKirk Cousins (vertical)

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Jones has been an absolute stud ever since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2012. If we go by the numbers at Pro Football Focus, 2016 was actually Jones’ best year to date. This past season, he finished out with a strong 87.4 overall score, tying him for seventh amongst all edge rushers with Houston’s Whitney Mercilus. In the previous four seasons with New England, Jones averaged a 79.38 on PFF. Every team could use a sack machine like Jones, but coach Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. He’s technically ticketed for unrestricted free agency, but it doesn’t sound like Jones is going anywhere.

3. Kawann Short, DT (3): Unlike former teammate Josh Norman, Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short says he won’t have any problem signing the franchise tender if the team tags him. “I wouldn’t fight it or anything,” said Short in early January. In 2016, he turned in his fourth straight 16-game season and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best interior defender. Short, 28 this week, also had six sacks on the year. I think the Panthers would be wise to hit Short with the ~$13.468MM franchise tag or sign him to a long-term deal, but there is at least a non-trivial chance of him reaching the open market.

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PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings

The regular season is over and, for most teams, the offseason is underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the November edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

2017 Free Agent Power Rankings With Text (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): In 2015, Cousins established himself as a solid NFL quarterback. That summer, the Redskins told Cousins they wanted him to prove it all over again before giving him a monster contract. Cousins was happy to oblige and he has now increased his value even further. After a so-so start to 2016 season, Cousins closed out strong to finish as Pro Football Focus’ No. 8 ranked QB, putting him ahead of notables such as Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, and Philip Rivers. All of those players have gotten their big pay day and now it’s time for Cousins to join the club. "<strong

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Before you start salivating over the idea of Jones joining your favorite team’s front seven, we have some bad news: Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. Whether it’s on a one-year, $16.955MM deal or a multi-year contract that tops Olivier Vernon‘s Giants deal, it sounds like Jones is staying put. Jones, 27 in May, played in all 16 games this year and racked up 11 sacks.

3. Kawann Short, DT (4): Contract talks between the Panthers and Short stalled last summer and Fletcher Cox‘s market-boosting deal with the Eagles didn’t help matters. Short wound up playing 2016 for peanuts ($1.473MM) and he turned in yet another stellar season. Short was the fourth-best interior defender in the league this season, per Pro Football Focus, and his 87.7 overall score was roughly the same as his 2015 mark, even though he had five less sacks. In June, it was said that the Panthers did not want to go too far beyond an average annual salary of $15MM. If he’s not franchised tagged or signed to a long-term deal by Carolina, there are a few teams that will happily go beyond that point.

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Cardinals Willing To Franchise Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones isn’t going anywhere. Coach Bruce Arians told reporters today that the team is willing to place the franchise tag on the star defensive end if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. The non-exclusive tag for defensive ends is expected to come in at $16.955MMChandler Jones (vertical)

Prior to the 2016 season, the Patriots shipped Jones to Arizona because they were unwilling to pay Jones major money via the franchise tag or in a new long-term deal. After trading a second-round pick for Jones (and former first-round pick Jonathan Cooper), the Cardinals have been widely expected to keep Jones no matter the cost.

The price for defensive ends keeps going up every year and Jones could eclipse the high watermark set by Giants DE Olivier Vernon last offseason. Vernon’s five-year, $85MM contract includes a $20MM signing bonus as part of his $40MM in full guarantees. The total guarantees in the deal add up to $52.5MM and will get locked in by March 2018. Jones is eight months younger than Vernon and all parties involved here know that he’s looking at a monster payday if he reaches the open market. That’s why the Cardinals won’t take any chances.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals’ Chandler Jones: “I Love It Here”

The Cardinals entered the 2016 season as Super Bowl contenders and will end it as massive disappointments, having stumbled to a 6-8-1 mark with one game remaining. But Arizona’s struggles haven’t been the fault of pass rusher Chandler Jones, whom the team acquired from the Patriots last March in exchange for a second-round pick and now-unemployed guard Jonathan Cooper.

Chandler Jones

Jones has started in each of his 15 appearances this season and piled up 47 tackles, 21 quarterback hurries, 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. As a result, he ranks 10th in overall performance among Pro Football Focus’ 110 qualifying edge defenders. Now Jones, who has amassed 45.5 sacks in his five-year career, could be on the cusp of playing his final game with the Cardinals. Although the soon-to-be 27-year-old is an impending free agent, he’d like to stay in Arizona.

“I love it here in Arizona – the coaches, the people, the whole atmosphere,” Jones told Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. “I love the vibe that people give off and I can see myself being here for a long time.”

The admiration is seemingly mutual, as general manager Steve Keim referred to Jones as “something we have not had here in years” in October. Back then, the Cardinals and Jones had reportedly been discussing a contract extension since training camp, though it’s unclear if those negotiations have continued.

It’s fair to suggest that retaining Jones over the long haul could cost Arizona similar money to what the Giants gave fellow pass rusher Olivier Vernon in free agency last winter. Vernon parlayed 29 sacks in four seasons with the Dolphins into a five-year, $85MM pact with $52MM in guarantees. Jones is aware of that deal, he told Weinfuss, but the Cardinals could place the franchise tag on him before the March deadline if they’re uncomfortable handing out a Vernon-esque contract. Jones is listed as a linebacker, a position that will carry a projected salary of $14.754MM via the tag in 2017, but the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder could argue that he’s a defensive end in order to secure a richer payday ($16.955MM).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Panthers, Bears, Eagles, Cards

Multiple concussions have felled superstar Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly this season, though the 25-year-old unsurprisingly told media Wednesday that he isn’t mulling retirement. “I’m holding off that retirement word for a little ways down the road,” he said (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “It’s something you appreciate everybody concerned with how you’re doing, but whenever my opportunity comes back I’ll be back out there.” Kuechly has recovered from the concussion that he suffered Nov. 17, but the Panthers haven’t cleared him to return to action. Considering they’re 6-8 and all but out of playoff contention, it would behoove the defending NFC champions to keep Kuechly out until next season.

More from the NFC:

  • The Bears designated cornerback Kyle Fuller to return from injured reserve last month, but it turns out they won’t activate him, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. There’s now a belief within the organization – including from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio – that Fuller wasn’t eager to come back this season from August knee surgery, per Biggs. Head coach John Fox addressed that, saying, “That’s hard to measure. Looking inside people is not real easy.” The likelihood now is that Fuller – a 2014 first-round pick – has played his final game with the organization, suggests Biggs, who notes that the Bears would take a late-round choice for him. Fuller, who appeared in all 32 games (30 starts) in his first two years and racked up six interceptions, is under contract next season for a relative pittance ($1.74MM-plus). He’s also controllable for 2018 by way of a fifth-year option, but it’s likely his employer – whether it’s the Bears or another team – will decline to exercise it by next spring’s deadline.
  • After Eagles left tackle Jason Peters earned his ninth Pro Bowl selection Tuesday, head coach Doug Pederson spoke out against the idea that the soon-to-be 35-year-old could be an offseason cap casualty. “I love him,’’ Pederson said (per Paul Domowitch of Philly.com). “I want him on the team. I don’t want him to go anywhere. I want him to be an Eagle for the rest of his career. Once we get through these next two games, we’ll address all of that.” Notably, Howie Roseman – not Pederson – has final say when it comes to the Eagles’ roster. Further, releasing Peters in order to avail the left tackle position for well-compensated right tackle Lane Johnson would free up $9.2MM in cap space against $2MM in dead money next year. Moving on from Peters would also significantly weaken the Eagles’ line, though, evidenced by his ninth-place ranking among 79 qualifying tackles at Pro Football Focus.
  • The Cardinals have an impressive class of 2017 free agents on the horizon, and general manager Steve Keim says he’s already touched base with the agents for many of those players, a list that includes Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, Andre Ellington, and Jermaine Gresham, among others. “One thing public does not generally know, we have spoken to many agents regarding players whose contracts expire after the season and some whose contracts do not expire after the season that we’d just like to try to extend,” Keim told Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. “There are several players we’d like to have back, but it takes two sides.”
  • The Packers worked out former Aggies punter Taylor Symmank on Wednesday, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).
  • The 49ers plan to sign former Texas kicker Nick Rose to a reserve-future deal in the the offseason, tweets Wilson.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Cards, Chandler Jones Discussing Extension

The Cardinals and the agent for contract-year defensive end Chandler Jones have been discussing an extension since training camp, general manager Steve Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7 (via Darren Urban of the team’s website). Keim didn’t indicate whether there has been progress toward an agreement.

Chandler Jones

Jones is “something we have not had here in years,” said Keim, who acquired the 26-year-old in a March trade with the Patriots. Keim gave up a second-round pick and offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper (now with the Browns) for Jones.

In four years with the Patriots, Jones piled up 36 sacks and 10 forced fumbles over 55 regular-season games. The 2012 first-round pick from Syracuse has remained a force in Arizona, where he has amassed 23 tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles through seven contests. Jones, who has participated in 96 percent of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps, ranks third in overall performance among Pro Football Focus’ 103 qualifying edge rushers.

Based on his production, Jones wouldn’t be unreasonable to seek a deal similar to the five-year, $85MM pact fellow defensive end Olivier Vernon signed as a free agent with the Giants over the winter. The former Dolphin, also 26, got a whopping $52MM in guarantees after totaling 29 sacks and four forced fumbles during his first four seasons.

If the Cardinals and Jones aren’t able to find common ground by March, they could hit the one-time Pro Bowler with the franchise tag – worth upward of $15.7MM this year – to keep him off the market. Jones is currently raking in $7.799MM in his fifth-year option season.

NFC Notes: Cardinals, Redskins, Wentz, Saints

The Cardinals added a number of big names this offseason, including rookie defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and linebacker Chandler Jones. While the two players have a relatively tumultuous past, the organization believed it was worth the risk to acquire the duo.

“You have to take some risks,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said (via Tom Pelissero of USA Today). “Let’s be honest: Not every player out there that is extremely gifted has done everything right in his life. Yet at the same time, we want to create a culture in the locker room of positive guys, good people in the community.”

Jones made the news last season following a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana, while Nkemdiche was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession.

“We feel like we got two high-character guys who made mistakes and know that they made a mistake and don’t feel like it’ll happen again,” said coach Bruce Arians.

“Each person’s an individual. You look at Nkemdiche’s history and the family he comes from and everything. He had a bad night in Atlanta. And we all have bad nights. You don’t condemn them for that. You find out why, and what are you going to do about it? Chandler’s episode was bizarre – but he went to the police.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes from the NFC…

  • Pierre Thomas ended last season with the Redskins, and ESPN.com’s John Keim believes the team could still use the free agent. The team has some talented running backs in Matt Jones, Keith Marshall, and Chris Thompson, but the writer believes the organization may still be seeking some reinforcement at the position. Considering his experience and familiarity with the organization, Thomas would appear to be a natural fit.
  • After being activated from the PUP list, Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis missed the majority of this past week’s practices. The veteran admitted that he was relieved that the lingering injury popped up during the preseason, and he added that he doesn’t anticipate a trip to the injured reserve. “I ain’t (going on) IR,” he told Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. “That definitely ain’t my plan. I worked too hard this offseason. I stayed in New Orleans the whole time and grinded. So, offseason is definitely not on my calendar or in my notebook.”
  • Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz took quite the hit during his team’s first preseason game, leading Bob Ford of Philly.com to write that the coaching staff should do a better job of protecting the generational talent. Meanwhile, considering the presence of veteran signal-callers Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, Jeff McLane of Philly.com wonders how long it will take for the Eagles to become Wentz’s team.