When the Arizona Cardinals acquired pass rusher Chandler Jones from the New England Patriots last offseason, the biggest question wasn’t regarding his talent or ability to adjust to a new scheme, but rather his expiring contract.
Jones played as well as could be expected in 2016, finishing with 49 tackles, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles, while diverting offensive attention away from fellow pass rushers Markus Golden and Calais Campbell, who finished with 12.5 and eight sacks, respectively.
Now the 26-year-old edge rusher figures to be in line to play under a lucrative contract next season, and NFL.com writer Gregg Rosenthal believes that it is a “no brainer” he will be given the franchise tag by the Cardinals, preventing him from testing the free agent market.
Sometimes coaches make this annual column too easy.
“Chandler’s not going anywhere because if we have to, we will franchise him,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said after the season.
The Cardinals gave up a second-round pick to acquire Jones last March and want to get their money’s worth. He enjoyed a terrific first season in Arizona.
Arians’s assurance comes after a year that saw Jones help the Cardinals lead the league in sacks with 48, after finishing tied for 20th in 2015 with 36.
Jones moved to 3-4 outside linebacker in 2016 after primarily playing 4-3 defensive end during his previous four years with the Patriots. The projected franchise tag for 2017, according to CBS Sports’ Joel Corry, is just under $17 million for defensive ends and just over $14.75 million for linebackers.
Other “no brainers” to be franchise tagged include Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short and Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Jones is far from the only high-profile Cardinal to potentially hit free agency this offseason, as Campbell and safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger are all set to hit the open market on March 9.
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