Chandler Jones enters the final year under contract with the Arizona Cardinals. With minicamp starting, he was an expected no-show as he seeks a new contract. He has no guaranteed money left on his five-year, $86 million deal.
The Cardinals have never been known to easily open their wallet for any player, and Chandler has certainly outplayed his contract. Let’s contrast the pros and cons against signing Jones to an extension.
There are some things for the Cardinals to consider. First, Jones will be entering the final year of his contract with a high number. He’s slated to count about $15 million against the cap. Although he’s been one of the most productive rushers in the NFL since his arrival, he’s also on the wrong side of 30. Jones is also coming off a season in which he only played in five games after tearing his bicep. While holding out of minicamp and potentially training camp would be costly to Jones than anyone else, there are ways to circumvent that. Signing J.J. Watt gives Arizona some interior pass rush, it would lack the pass rush off the EDGE it enjoyed since Jones’ arrival.
Jones has been extremely productive at a premium position in the league. Proven pass rushers are hard to find in the NFL. Not to mention, he’s been one of the best pass rushers since his professional career began in 2012. After the Cardinals traded for him in 2016, Jones has led the league in sacks (61) and has had over 100 quarterback hits. In 2019, he had 19 sacks. His presence has helped the secondary and even the offense. Jones’ ability to get pressure and sacks on critical downs got Arizona’s defense off the field and gave the ball back to Kyler Murray. It doesn’t take an analytics guru to know that having more opportunities to score on offense, greatly increases a team’s chance of scoring. If the Cardinals don’t re-sign him, they don’t have proven pass rushers on the EDGE, especially after losing Haason Reddick in free agency.
Arizona must re-sign Jones. The Cardinals lucked into a trade for him; he gave them a discount in a long-term deal, and now the team wants to lowball him again? The fact that Jones is so elite and has even made it to the final year of his contract is absurd. It’s not like the Cardinals have a rich history of drafting players that are amongst the best in the league at their position.
Arizona still has rookies to sign as well as holes in its roster, but it can’t build a team through free agency anyway; other players are watching and taking notes, particularly, Murray. The Cardinals would save roughly $15 million by trading Jones, but why would they? Signing him to an extension could lower his salary-cap number for the upcoming season and give the team some flexibility in regards to the COVID-19 stricken cap.
Two seasons ago, Jones led the NFL in forced fumbles while adding 19 sacks. He’s been the best pass rusher in Cardinals’ history and plays a premium position worth the cap (and thought) gymnastics it takes to get a new deal done.