Patriots: Revisiting the Chandler Jones Trade With the Cardinals

Former Patriots DE Chandler Jones (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Former Patriots DE Chandler Jones (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /

Back in 2016, the Patriots traded impending free agent Chandler Jones to the Cardinals.

The New England Patriots stunned the NFL at the start of the 2016 offseason when they dealt defensive end Chandler Jones, who was a year away from hitting the open market, to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick.

From a Patriots perspective, the trade was a perfect representation of their famed cutthroat mentality as Bill Belichick has never been one to overpay to keep players — let alone defensive linemen — around. Look no further than how the respective tenures of Richard Seymour and Trey Flowers ended in Foxborough.

However, now that we are more than four years removed from the blockbuster deal, it seems appropriate to take a look back and analyze it from both sides.

Leave it to the Patriots to trade a budding stud entering the prime of his career and have it work to their benefit. Not only did they win a Super Bowl the next season without Jones (and again in 2018), but the freed cap room allowed them to sign linebacker Donta Hightower and later cornerback Stephon Gilmore in free agency, both of whom are top players on the team.

In fact, the latter has been named an All-Pro in back-to-back campaigns and is fresh off winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. As a group, New England’s defense has been one of the best in the NFL in recent seasons, so it’s not like the team is sorely missing Jones’ output.

The Pats then took that 2016 second-rounder and traded it to the New Orleans Saints for a third- and fourth-round pick, which they used on Joe Thuney and Malcolm Mitchell. Cooper, meanwhile, never played a down in Foxborough and has spent time with three different teams since the trade. But the big win here is Thuney, who has been a fixture on the Pats O-line.

Now, let’s see how the Cardinals have fared. It’s apparent that Jones was playing with a chip on his shoulder following his trade from New England, as he’s since established himself as arguably the best edge rusher in the NFL.

Across four seasons in Arizona, the former No. 21 overall pick has posted 210 tackles, 60 sacks, 98 quarterback hits, 17 forced fumbles and 10 passes defended. This past season, he led the league with eight forced fumbles and finished second with 19 sacks. He did, however, take the sack crown in 2017 with a whopping 17 QB takedowns.

What’s almost as impressive as those numbers has been Jones’ durability. He’s started all 64 games since arriving in the desert and has played over 91% of the defensive snaps.

With all of this in mind, it’s extremely difficult to determine a winner. Could you call Jones the one that got away for the Patriots? But you know Belichick would NOT have given him the five-year, $82 million deal tthe Cards did.

You can also question if the Pats are able to sustain their run without the salvaged cap room that allowed them to sign Hightower and Gilmore (even though Jones won an SB with New England in 2014). The Cardinals, on the other hand, gave up virtually nothing to acquire an absolute world-beater of a pass rusher, even though it hasn’t resulted in much winning.

Fans in Foxborough likely hate seeing the force of nature that Jones has become — plus the fact that the’s overcome his off-the-field distractions — but we doubt either side would go back and change this if they could given how everyone has seemingly benefitted.

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