The Patriots made a few big moves yesterday, trading Chandler Jones to the Cardinals in exchange for a second round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper. A few hours later they also signed former Rams defensive end Chris Long.
Here are a few quick thoughts:
1. Chandler Would Be Gone Anyway
This is the biggest takeaway I have from this trade. Jones’ contract is up after the 2016 season, and after seeing some of the ridiculous contracts pass rushers got this offseason, there was no way in hell the Pats would be forking up that kind of money to keep Jones next year.
So instead of letting him walk for nothing in a year, Bill Belichick got a second round pick, and an offensive guard that was one of the highest rated players in the 2013 draft in Jonathan Cooper. Jones was a good player, and he will be missed, but he was from from elite, and getting another talented body up front to protect Tom Brady is a huge win in my book.
2. Offensive Line Depth
You want to talk about offensive line depth? The Patriots are loaded now. Here is who they have: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Bryan Stork, Jonathan Cooper, Tre’ Jackson, Shaq Mason, Josh Kline, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon, and LaAdrian Waddle.
That is a ton of depth to have, particularly on the inside. Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason are two incredibly talented players, and now that you add Cooper to the mix, the Pats shouldn’t have a ton of protection issues on the inside going forward. However I would like to see someone other than Cannon as the chief backup tackle, so I could see New England trying to turn one of the interior guys into a tackle as the season progresses.
3. Defensive End Depth
Losing Jones obviously hurts their talent on the edge, but after signing Chris Long, I think this defense is in good shape going forward on the outside. The two starters will be Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard, but Bill Belichick will have Chris Long, Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom all available to come in to rush the passer when needed. Depth is key, and the Patriots front four will always be fresh thanks to the plethora of talented bodies they have.
4. Cap Space
New England cleared about $5 million in cap space by getting rid of Jones, which hopefully will be used to lock up Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins for the foreseeable future. Both of their contracts are set to expire after the 2016 season, so it should be a priority for the Patriots to lock up two of their three best defenders. Without Hightower and Collins at linebacker, this defense goes from elite, to very mediocre.