Arizona Cardinals star pass rusher Chandler Jones is away from mandatory minicamp this week, presumably due to a contract stalemate with the organization.
Jones, 31, is set to earn a base salary of $15.5 million — the final year of his current contract. Meanwhile, his cap hit is a resounding $20.83 million for the cash-strapped Cardinals. This led to speculation that Arizona might look to trade Jones after signing fellow edge rusher J.J. Watt during NFL free agency.
For his part, Jones is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he missed all but five games due to a biceps injury. Prior to last season, he was among the fiercest pass rushers in the game. From 2015-19, Jones recorded 116 quarterback hits and 72.5 sacks. He led the NFL with 17 quarterback take downs back in 2017 and recorded a career-high 19 in 2019.
Obviously, there would be a pretty strong market for Jones’ services should the Cardinals actually put him on the trade block. Here’s a look at four ideal destinations for the two-time All-Pro.
Chandler Jones trade to the New York Jets
First-year Jets head coach Robert Saleh runs a 4-3 defensive scheme dating back to his days with the San Francisco 49ers. However, the respected defensive mind doesn’t have his own version of Nick Bosa despite New York signing Carl Lawson in free agency. Could Jones be that type of guy for Saleh in Jersey?
It’s important to note that Jones is not scheme specific. He has played with his hands down in 4-3 defenses and as an outside linebacker in 3-4 versions. As much as his previous success makes the Pro Bowler an attractive option for the Jets, this might be the biggest draw. It also doesn’t hurt that New York has the third-most cap room in the NFL at $30.77 million.
Chandler Jones trade to the Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles will not retain veteran Pro Bowl pass rusher Melvin Ingram. He’s still on the free agent market and has been linked to other AFC teams. It makes sense with former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley taking over as the Chargers’ head coach. He runs a 4-3 scheme. Ingram proved that he’s not a fit in said scheme under former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley a season ago.
This is a long way of saying that Chandler Jones should be an option to team up with Joey Bosa in Los Angeles. The Chargers have a need at the edge pass rush position. They are also taking advantage of quarterback Justin Herbert playing under a rookie contract and are north of $20 million under the cap. This almost makes too much sense.
Chandler Jones trade to the Indianapolis Colts
As with pretty much every team in the mix for Jones, it will likely be about the finances for these Colts. Indy finds itself $17.11 million under the cap. It will not be able to afford Jones at his $15.5 million cap hit. Rather, an extension would have to be in the cards if this came to fruition — lowering Jones’ cap figure for 2021 in the process.
As for a potential fit in defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ system, it makes a ton of sense. The Colts lost pass rusher Denico Autry in free agency. Meanwhile, Justin Houston remains a free agent. They simply can’t rely on rookie first-round pick Kwity Paye to be their top edge pass rush guy. Instead, adding Jones to the mix to team up with Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner should be in the cards.
Chandler Jones trade to the Miami Dolphins
On the surface, this wouldn’t seem to be a need for head coach Brian Flores and Co. Miami recorded 41 sacks a season ago en route to putting up a surprising 10-6 record. But that’s just on the surface. These Dolphins surprisingly releasd Kyle Van Noy during the spring and traded away fellow pass rusher Shaq Lawson to the Houston Texans. It’s a need. That’s evidenced by the fact that Miami is kicking the tires on the aforementioned Melvin Ingram.
If the Fins want to take the next step top-end status in the AFC, they are going to have to boast an elite pass rush. This is especially true with Josh Allen existing in the AFC East. Adding Chandler Jones to the mix would be a great next step.