It’s tough to argue with the success the Patriots have enjoyed after trading Chandler Jones to the Cardinals.
Jones, fresh off a 12 1/2 sack season and his first Pro Bowl nod, was sent to Arizona for guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick in 2016; so much for sustained success in New England after spending a 2012 first-round pick on the defensive end.
While the goal of drafting a player in the first round is for them to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber playmaker and reward them with a lucrative extension when the time comes, that’s not always “The Patriot Way.”
After the trade, Jones signed a five year, $82.5 million contract with the Cardinals, receiving $53 million in guarantees.
While the Patriots no longer enjoyed the contributions of Jones, in the four seasons since, New England has won four straight AFC East division titles, three AFC championships and celebrated two Super Bowl victories. The Patriots, posting a 50-14 mark in the regular season and 8-2 record in the postseason, have hardly missed Jones.
Meanwhile, Jones is building a Hall of Fame resume.
In four seasons with Arizona, Jones has racked up 60 — SIXTY! — sacks and 98 quarterback hits, bringing his career sack total to 96. Those 96 sacks place him 41st on the NFL’s all-time list, and 10 more sacks in 2020 catapults Jones into the top 25. Double-digit sacks in the upcoming season is a near-lock, given Jones has notched no less than 11 every year since 2015 — and in all but two during his eight-year career.
Jones turned 30 in February but is showing no signs of slowing down. Last season, Jones recorded 19 sacks while leading the NFL with eight forced fumbles. Time will tell how long Jones plays in the league and how productive he will be as he ages, but he’s currently at a record-setting pace.
To put his sack pace in perspective, Jones has recorded four more sacks than Bruce Smith had through the first eight seasons of his career. With 200 career sacks, Smith is the NFL’s all-time leader. Smith continued to log 108 more sacks over the final 11 seasons of his career, but Jones has more in the first eight.
In the four seasons since trading Jones, the Patriots have ranked first, fifth, seventh and first, respectively, when it comes to scoring defense. A prolific sack artist isn’t required in New England’s formula for success. Since 2016, the most sacks logged by a Patriots defender was Trey Flowers with 7 1/2 in 2018. No Patriots defender not named Chandler Jones has produced a double-digit sack season since Mark Anderson and Andre Carter both had exactly 10 in 2011.
The argument could be made that a greater return for Jones should have been acquired by the Patriots. Cooper never appeared in a game for New England and the draft picks the Patriots acquired for Jones turned into a trade back that resulted in guard Joe Thuney and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. While Thuney is one of the NFL’s elite offensive linemen, Mitchell lasted just one season on the Patriots roster.
At the end of the Day, the Cardinals are elated to have Jones and the Patriots have been just fine without him. In addition to landing Thuney in the draft, New England didn’t have to commit the cap space required to keep Jones around which led to more flexibility. In a roundabout way, the trade was truly a win-win for both teams.
But what cannot be lost in the discussion is that Jones has become one of the NFL’s elite defensive players that are building a first-ballot Hall of Fame-caliber resume, and he is an underappreciated superstar.
- May 17, 2022
- May 17, 2022