For all of the chatter and anticipation about a potential Julio Jones trade, I can't help but wonder why we aren't hearing anything about another veteran player set to make $15 million this season. One on the other side of the ball. One with the same last name.
Oh, there are constant and breathless reports on any Julio Jones-related maneuver -- real, imaginary or perceived -- but not much at all locally or nationally about Chandler Jones, and what certainly looks like a stalemate between him and the Cardinals. I can't help but wonder if that doesn't change in the not-too-distant future, and we all hear a little more about this chasm in Arizona. There are some obvious parallels to both of these Jones situations, and ultimately it stands to reason that both former Pro Bowlers will be playing elsewhere in 2021.
Sure, no one asked Chandler Jones about what's going on with him and the Cardinals during a phone call on national television, but pay even a little attention to Arizona OTAs and it's clear all is not rosy between player and team (something we projected and anticipated and told you guys was coming months ago). Jones, despite being one of the elite pass rushers of his generation, is still on an old contract with no guaranteed money. There hasn't been any word of any talk to extend him before the 2021 season, and, well, the signs so far have all pointed in a predictable direction.
Chandler Jones, 31 (one year younger than Julio), has yet to show up at an offseason practice (like Julio), despite living year-round near the facility. This is a team leader who has done nothing but represent the team with class on and off the field, and someone who could be held up as an example to others. Yet he is a no-show. Oh, and he deleted every reference to the Cardinals from his social media, a telltale indicator if there ever was one. And he hasn't put anything back.
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I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that he probably isn't fired up to play out an expiring contract -- one with zero guarantees or protections whatsoever -- for a team that couldn't wait to throw a bag of money at DeAndre Hopkins last year, or JJ Watt early this offseason, but seems beyond content to just let Jones go out and have to prove something all over again.
It feels like I have written this column before. Players of his caliber get new deals before this point in the process. Or they get traded to a team that is willing to extend him and compensate him fairly. Period. That's how it works.
The pass rush market has exploded over the past two years with Myles Garrett and Joey Bosa among those cashing in. Yet here is Jones set to make $15.5 million (to Julio's $15.3 million), also coming off an injury, entering his fifth year with Arizona, but -- unlike with Julio and the Falcons -- never getting a single adjustment to his salary or additional years tacked on during the duration of his exemplary run.
In case you forget, Jones has been the Cardinals' best player since being acquired from the Patriots in 2016. He posted 19 sacks in 2019 -- his last full season after a torn bicep wiped out most of his 2020 campaign. At the time of that injury last season, Jones had registered more sacks than anyone in the entire NFL since entering the league in 2012 (97, 2.5 more than Von Miller). From 2016 to 2019, Jones produced 60 sacks, a whopping eight more than anyone else in the league.
He's long been viewed as one of the biggest bargains in the sport, and, trust me, I am hardly the only person who has been keeping a close eye on this brewing situation. Plenty of GMs are, and it seems hard to see much changing here unless Arizona steps up big time, and there has been zero indication of that happening in any way shape or form. If anything, the Cardinals appear like a team that has already spent its money.
When you have a pass rusher this good, and you truly intend to take care of him, that's an easy message to sell to fans and the media. Not very controversial. We are going to pay him market value and do what it takes to keep him here beyond his current contract. We're working with his representatives to do so. He is a big part of our future.
Yeah, none of that here.
So stay tuned. You show appreciation for players by how you pay them and how you play them. Jones isn't coming off an ACL tear or a torn Achilles or something that would limit his speed and twitch and agility. Pecs heal with time and plenty of time has passed since this injury. He was a top-five pass rusher -- at least -- when he went down already playing on an out-of-date contract. Cardinals brass seems cool with letting that continue; so I'd reckon most veterans of this pedigree would stay home.
That's how it goes.
Here's what other GMs know as well -- finding a stellar pass rusher still in his prime is almost impossible to do. Very rarely do they come around. I've chronicled how receiver salaries have leveled off, even declined some, truly at the top of the market -- especially as colleges keeping spitting them out, round after round. We've had two potentially generational receiver drafts in succession, and teams have loaded up. Guess what this draft was incredibly light on, especially at the very top of the draft?
You guessed it -- dudes who can absolutely, positively get to the quarterback. Jones is one of those guys, who has been a team-first guy his entire team in the desert, but nothing lasts forever. Sometimes, you have to advocate for yourself, and sometimes staying away is the best way to get your bosses' attention. Problem is, more money for him wouldn't appear to be in the budget -- or you'd take care of his deal before you pay way more for, say, Watt, who has a long history of injury issues. But the Cards spent more than many other front offices felt Watt was worth, and, well, a locker room tends to notice these things.
I'd anticipate more teams making exploratory calls to the Cardinals. It would be absolutely silly not to. And, well, everyone and everything has its price. There would be a host of teams willing to pay Jones far more than he is set to make, with guarantees involved. He doesn't owe the Cardinals anything more, and they, frankly, owe him more.
There's not one blockbuster Jones trade waiting to be made in the NFL -- there are two. And, for my money, I'd be going after the guy who gets after quarterbacks rather than the one who catches balls from them. I'd spend my $15 million -- and then some -- on a Jones, just not the one everyone is making all the fuss about.