The off-season schedule for the Arizona Cardinals has so far seen appearances from a number of its stars. J.J. Watt has hardly left the valley and even Kyler ‘Texas Forever’ Murray graced the desert with his presence. One notable absentee from OTAs and mandatory mini-camp though was star outside linebacker Chandler Jones. Jones is heading into the final year of his 2017 deal and is looking for an extension with the team. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury noted that he had expected Jones to abstain from the early parts of the off-season program.
In an unworried tone, he let on that there was an ongoing dialogue regarding Chandler Jones‘ contract. Details however would be kept private. Regardless, make no mistake that the Cardinals should make resigning their defensive cornerstone a priority this off-season.
Cardinals EDGE Chandler Jones’ Contract Should Be Top Priority
Chandler Jones is perhaps the most underrated pass rusher, if not player, in the NFL. Since 2012, no one has more sacks than Jones. He is expected to eclipse the Cardinals franchise sack record this upcoming season. His blend of speed and technique, paired with his freakish length, have made Chandler Jones a dominant edge defender throughout his career.
He is coming off what was a down-year in 2020. Jones managed only one sack in five games before a season-ending bicep injury forced him off the field for the remainder of the campaign. Despite the lost year though, there are very few, if any, that don’t expect Jones to return to his stellar form for the Cardinals. Although not participating in football-related activities, Jones has been a regular at the Cardinals facility. Always expected to make a full recovery from the injury, Jones’ social media accounts have seen him dunking basketballs and training with his brother, MMA legend Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.
Chandler Jones noted how, in the disrupted 2020 off-season, he came into training camp a little heavy, which likely contributed to his slow start to the season. Countering a lost season with a productive off-season, Jones is set to be a menace in 2021.
Jones No Longer The Bare Bones of Arizona’s Front Seven
This is not the team that helped Jones get one sack in five games. If anything, the team is in a better place than Jones left it. Acquiring Hall of Fame talents like J.J. Watt, whose 95.5 sacks since 2012 are second only to Jones’ 97, sets up what can be an exciting lineup for Arizona in 2021. Adding another imposing pass rusher to the group is expected to open up opportunities for Jones, who has shouldered the team’s pass rush for several seasons.
Former Defensive Players of the Year aside, 2021 will also offer Jones a chance to run it back with Arizona’s ‘Junkyard Dog’ Markus Golden. Golden was reacquired in a mid-season trade last season to cover for Jones’ absence, so the two have yet to take the field together since Golden’s return. History has shown, though, that they can be a devastating combo; in 2016, the pair each had double-digit sacks. A repeat of that season is a win for everyone, especially Jones, since last time it earned him a five-year mega-deal.
What An Extension For Chandler Jones Might Look Like
At 31, Jones isn’t getting another five-year deal from the Cardinals. Nor will the figure reset the market at outside linebacker. However, he will still be paid like a premier talent. A reflection of the prospective tandem for 2021, we can look to J.J. Watt’s contract with the Cardinals to project what Jones’ contract may look like. Watt’s deal is worth $28M over two years. A short-term deal at top market value would be suitable for all parties, as would tying Jones’ contract to Watt’s in terms of length.
Granted, Jones isn’t a free agent till the end of the 2021 season, but the Cardinals should look to get their star locked in before the season. Cardinals media members Mike Jurecki and Craig Grialou both reassured Cardinals fans that Jones’ supposed hold-out would not extend into the season, contract or not. Jones’s presence around the facility is a testament to that.
However, extending Jones prior to the season offers the Cardinals both security and flexibility. The Cardinals can restructure the deal to reduce Jones’ $20M cap hit for 2021. With DeAndre Hopkins already trying to recruit unwanted star Stephon Gilmore and Zach Ertz itching to swap houses with Jordan Hicks, a restructured deal gives the Cardinals the opportunity to add even more talent in what is looking like an ‘All-In’ year in the desert.
Jones will play for the Arizona Cardinals in 2021. He will be excellent, the premier pass rusher that was missing in 2020. J.J. Watt will make him better, and it is in the team’s best interests to preserve that tandem. He offers the team elite talent and the front office a chance at some financial acrobatics. Re-signing Jones should be a question of when, not if, for Arizona.
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