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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones (55) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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NFL.com analyst: Chandler Jones was NFL’s tenth-best edge rusher in 2016

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones (55) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

When the Arizona Cardinals traded for Chandler Jones prior to the 2016 season, they were hoping he would take to a seamless shift from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker.

Even though the team as a whole struggled, the Cardinals couldn’t have asked for much more from Jones. He was among the league leaders in sacks while helping divert attention away from fellow outside linebacker Marcus Golden and defensive lineman Calais Campbell, both of whom also had banner seasons.

There’s another stat that’s even more telling with regards to the fifth-year pro’s ability to rush the passer, NFL.com writer Matt Harmon writes.

According to Harmon, Next Gen Stats has Jones ranked tenth among edge rushers with 300 or more pass rush attempts in 2016 because even if he did not get to the quarterback, he was usually pretty close.

The Arizona Cardinals came away as big winners in a trade with the Patriots that saw them ship off Jonathan Cooper and a second round pick for Chandler Jones. Cooper spent time on the Patriots, Browns and Cowboys this season, so you know how that part of the deal turned out, and a second round pick for a top-10 NFL pass rusher is a bargain for Arizona. Jones registered 11 sacks in his first season with the Cardinals and his 4.1 average distance to the quarterback at time of throw or sack puts him just shy of the 80th percentile among edge players this season. Jones helps form one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL alongside Markus Golden, who incidentally enough, would check in just behind his teammate at 11th on this ranking with a 4.11 pressure score. The next challenge for the Cardinals to truly make their deal for Jones a success will be to lock him up to a long-term deal, something New England was not interested in doing. Arizona will strongly consider slapping the franchise tag on the soon-to-be 27-year old pass rusher to keep him off the open market this offseason.

The edge rushers ranked ahead of Jones are Von Miller, Brian Orakpo, Melvin Ingram, Derrick Morgan, Whitney Mercilus, Brandon Graham, Vic Beasley, Jerry Hughes, and Ryan Kerrigan. This top 10 averaged 9.75 sacks between them this season.

Re-signing Jones is one of the biggest priorities for a team that has more than 20 players who could become free agents in the offseason, including some of the best in the league.

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