Chandler Jones is on the market, baby!
The Arizona Cardinals’ unwillingness to extend Jones has been widely reported and is unfortunately unsurprising—they often make odd decisions as a franchise. Jones has been as, if not more successful than pretty much any EDGE rusher over the last five seasons, and is coming off of only his first significant injury in his career. Don’t get it twisted: this is a legit star on the market.
But, he is also a 31-year-old with only one year left on his deal. That does make things tricky, as the acquiring team wouldn’t just have to pay the Cardinals trade compensation for Jones, they’d have to weigh the price of acquiring Jones against the contract they may have to sign him to. That’s a tricky bargain to make, but a few teams in competing windows make sense for Jones on a one-year rental with the potential to sign him for another few years and contend perennially.
I’ll be honest: this isn’t my idea. It’s Marlon Humphrey’s.
Humphrey’s barking up the right tree. The Ravens lost both Matt Judon (Patriots) and Yannick Ngakoue (Raiders) in free agency this year. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to feel good about Tyus Bowser as an ascending second-contract player and Pernell McPhee as a steady veteran, but the Ravens like a rotation in their blitz-heavy scheme, and rightfully so. Five outside backers took at least 25% of the snaps for the Ravens last season; only three of those players return.
Of course, a first-round pick was spent on Odafe Oweh this past offseason, which should help the rotation. But Oweh is as raw of a first-round pick at EDGE as there can be, so expectations should be low on his Year 1 impact. Jones, on the other hand, is about as reliable of a bet as there is, having played in at least 15 games and delivered at least 11 sacks in each of the five seasons before last year—when he lost the season due to bicep surgery.
The Ravens already traded for a high-impact, over-30 defensive lineman in Calais Campbell in the 2020 offseason, so there’s precedent here—though there’s likely more to be dealt for Jones than the measly fifth-round pick sent to Jacksonville for Campbell. With an extra third and fourth already in the 2022 draft, two first-round picks made in the 2021 draft, and plenty of pressure on Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh to find some playoff success, the urgency and capital are in place for the Ravens to make a move for a player of Jones’ caliber.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are not just a contender—they are the contender. They have better Super Bowl odds than any team in the NFL, and after the recent retooling of the offensive line—the unit that lost them the 2021 Super Bowl—the biggest weakness on the team is now in the opposite trenches.
The Chiefs’ EDGE room is straight bad. Frank Clark, Taco Charlton, Mike Danna, Joshua Kaindoh—they simply don’t have a consistent pass rush winner in that group. Anybody that’s just plain effective on the outside rush track, let alone a player of Jones’ caliber, would immediately step in and be the Chiefs’ primary passing-down winner.
The Chiefs are an ideal landing spot for Jones and would give him an angle on a championship—something he hasn’t won since his time with the New England Patriots in 2014. The Chiefs aren’t down any major capital in the 2022 draft, so Jones is attainable as well. It’s just a matter of how aggressive they’re willing to be.
I’m not sure trading for Jones is a good idea for the Cowboys—there are more problems with that defense than merely the opposite EDGE spot from DeMarcus Lawrence—but it sure feels like a Cowboys move. He’s a star at a position that isn’t just a need… it’s been a need for ages. Besides that one flash of late-career resurgence from Robert Quinn (11.5 sacks in 2019), the Cowboys have never had a running mate for Lawrence, who now only has 5.0 and 6.5 sacks in the last two seasons as he enters his age-29 season.
The Cowboys clearly have a playoff-caliber offense, but badly need support on defense, both along the front and in the secondary. With Lawrence and Jones, they’d potentially have one elite unit—and in that it’s a pass-rushing unit, they could mask a lot of the inevitable coverage weaknesses from that young defensive backfield.
Dallas has the capital and justification to get the Jones deal done, and they like to be aggressive. It might be a little presumptuous to act like a contender, and Dallas is unfortunately strapped for cap space in 2022 and beyond—which makes the incoming Jones extension tougher to manage—but if they want to take a big swing at the plate, Jones will understandably attract them.