Like a swift dagger through the night, the Patriots make a move that only preceded with whispers from the speculative. Sports writers abound, such as Ryan Hannable from WEEI discussed the positives towards trading Chandler Jones. There are multiple factors towards this.
As Hannable mentions in his article, Jones is slated to make $7.8 million this season for the final fifth-year option of his rookie contract, which Hannable mentions as, “For what he does on the field isn’t bad value. But that isn’t the issue.”
Pass rushers are as popular as ever in the NFL, and with the Denver Broncos winning this year’s Super Bowl on the back of MVP Von Miller, teams are itching to get themselves big time pass rushers. Chandler Jones is slated to be a free agent this time next year, and he’s going to command a huge contract.
Let’s look at the immediate financial impact; trading Jones clears $5.41 million in 2016 cap space, according to Bleacher Report, which leaves the Patriots with an overall current cap number of $17,629,526 (patscap.com). This is good for the time being, however the future impact is even more important.
Next offseason, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Malcolm Butler and Jabaal Sheard will all be hitting the free agent market barring preceding contract extensions. Jones would have been on that list. It is highly unlikely, given the market for pass rushers, that the Patriots would have resigned Jones in the first place.
The Patriots are also receiving former 2013 first-round pick in Jonathan Cooper, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. The Patriots do have the option to activate a fifth year on his contract by May 3. Cooper was highly touted in the draft and was drafted seventh overall.
Cooper suffered a broken leg in the preseason of the 2013 NFL season, causing him to sit out for the entire season. He also only started two games in 2014, and nine in 2015 before being benched. He was benched while recovering from a knee injury, according to ESPN staff writer Josh Weinfuss.
Dante Scarnecchia is returning as the Patriots’ offensive line coach; a man who has been a part of the Patriots organization since 1982, outside of two season he spent with Indianapolis in 1989-90. Scarnecchia retired in 2013, but remained working with the team on the side while Dave DeGugliemo filled in as offensive line coach before being let go after the Patriots lost to the AFC Championship Game to the Denver Broncos. Tom Brady was hit over 20 times in that game, resulting in one of the worst offensive line performances in the Belichick era.
Cooper has the ability; he had outstanding combine measurables, with 35 reps on the bench press, and he was a highly touted prospect out of North Carolina. A few leg injuries later and Cooper clearly has not been the same player in the NFL, though a change of scenery and the expertise of excellent offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and Bill Belichick could help Cooper rekindle the flame that turned him into a seventh overall pick.
Along with Cooper, the Patriots are getting a second-round pick, granting the Patriots 11 total draft selections, despite not having a first round pick due to it being swiped by Roger Goodell in regards to the ‘DelfateGate’ nonsense. The Patriots are stockpiling picks, saving cap space and have now added some big potential in the interior line.
The Patriots may have lost a great asset and teammate in Jones, but this opens the door for Hightower, Collins, Sheard and Butler extensions, a possibly reborn Cooper, and another young player to add to the team out of the second round. Remember, Collins and Gronkowski were second round picks; big names can come out of that round.
Given the eye test, I give this trade a B+. Great deal for the Patriots, and the Cardinals aren’t getting a bad deal themselves. We’ll see how it pans out, and if Cooper and the 2nd round pick work out, this could become a steal for New England.
Thomas Goodale is a Comment staff writer.