Aaron Rodgers isn't the only big name steering clear of mandatory minicamp. Out in Arizona, All-Pro pass rusher Chandler Jones is absent from the Cardinals' program as he enters the final year of his contract. Darren Urban of the team's official website says both Jones and linebacker Jordan Hicks are expected to skip the entire three-day camp. Hicks, who recently received permission to seek a trade, was already expected to sit out. Jones' absence was unannounced and appears to indicate an unresolved contract issue, as CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora recently noted.
"We've been in communication with both guys, we know the situations, and I'll leave that dialogue between us," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Nothing else to report on that."
Jones, 31, has not publicly commented on his contract, which expires after this season. But he could be seeking an extension after playing out nearly the entire five-year, $82.5 million deal he signed with the Cardinals in 2017. The veteran edge rusher also has zero guaranteed money left on his contract, which is due to count just over $20 million against Arizona's salary cap in 2021. There remains a "chasm" between he and the Cardinals in terms of his current value, per La Canfora.
Jones' absence is notable in part because a day before the start of minicamp, he joined new teammate J.J. Watt for a photo shoot at the team's media day. He and Watt, who signed a two-year, $28 million deal this offseason, have publicly discussed their excitement at teaming up on Arizona's defense. As the Cardinals' Darren Urban notes, Jones' media-day participation "is a good sign for the season, but his future beyond 2021 will continue to be a storyline."
"For us, it's not a distraction at all," safety Budda Baker said. "This is an NFL business league, and we support Chan in whatever he is doing. When we see him, we see him."
Jones has been one of the most productive pass rushers of his generation. A first-round pick of the Patriots in 2012, he logged two double-digit sack totals in four seasons with New England, then arrived in Arizona via trade in 2016. Since then, he's racked up a combined 61 sacks in five years, including a career-high 19 in 2019. He was limited to just five games in 2020 due to a biceps injury.