In a surprise turn of events this afternoon, the Patriots traded star defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick. The unexpected move may leave some Pats fans scratching their heads, and with good reason. Jones is coming off his best year, posting a career-high 12.5 sacks and even nabbing his first career pick. After four highly productive seasons, Jones looks to be coming into the prime of his career, which makes you wonder why the Pats would get rid of him. However contrary to popular belief, there are a couple upsides for both teams within the inner workings of this deal.
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On the Patriots end of things, the move actually makes sense for a couple of reasons. Despite Jones unquestionable talent, recently questions about his character have arisen due to an incident where he freaked out and ran to the police station after smoking some fake weed, known as “Spice”. Now i doubt this is the main reason as to why he was traded, but it may have been the final straw in Bellichick’s decision to let him go.
Another reason for the move is Chandler Jones would have become a free agent after this coming season. The Pats would have needed to find a way to not only pay Jones in the next offseason, but also re-sign Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Malcolm Butler. These three players are all younger than Jones and are all rising starts in the league. Keeping the trio intact is essential to the Patriots success in the future, and by making this move the Patriots are a step closer to doing so.
The player New England receives in the deal, Jonathan Cooper, has had an up and down career in the NFL. After an amazing college career at UNC, Cooper was the 7th overall pick in the 2013 draft, making him the highest guard drafted in 25 years up to that point. He hasn’t lived up to expectations since joining Arizona, due partly to a broken leg suffered in preseason action his rookie year. Since then, the Cardinals have experimented with him at different positions on the offensive line, but the flashes he showed in college just haven’t translated in the big leagues.
However there is hope for Cooper, as his acquisition is a classic example of a Bellichickian move. Time and time again the Pats have picked up a forgotten player and turned hm into a weapon, and hopefully they can do the same with Cooper. He is a player who clearly has the potential to be great, and could really help out a depleted Pats O-line that single-handedly lost them the AFC Championship last season if he can round into form by the start of the 2016 season.
In addition to Cooper, the Patriots also receive a second-round draft pick in the upcoming draft. The team might have seen this as an opportunity to replace the pick they lost as a penalty in the DeflateGate ruling. Since they would have got a super-late first round pick anyway, I think the move does well as a substitute. The process of developing a draft pick is more important to the Patriots than the pick itself, which has been evident in the past (i.e. Malcolm Butler).
On the other hand, the benefits of the trade for the Cardinals are much more evident on the surface. They get Jones, which will help improve the one and only thing their already strong defense needed, a pass rush. Arizona ranked 20th in the league in pass rush last season, despite having one of the best defenses in the league. Dwight Freeney did a good job coming on late in the season for the Cardinals to help provide some good outside rushes with his patented spin move, but he is now 36 years old and his career is winding down. Jones would be an upgrade for almost any team on the defensive line, but he is especially helpful for Arizona. Arizona’s defense now stands out to me as the best in the league, with Seattle losing a few key pieces this offseason.
Hopefully this move will work out for both teams and both players in the long run. One thing i think is important to note is that by moving to Arizona, Chandler Jones will now be closer to his brother, Jon “Bones” Jones, who lives and trains in New Mexico. Jon Jones has also had his share of incidents, which has led to his character being questioned, so hopefully by the pair being closer together they can help support each other outside of their lives in professional sports.