A move that has long been anticipated came to fruition Monday, as the Arizona Cardinals have placed the franchise tag on linebacker Chandler Jones. Coincidentally, it happened on Jones’ 27th birthday.
The tag used is the “non-exclusive” one, which means he can receive an offer sheet from another team that the Cardinals would then have the right to match. If the Cardinals chose not to match, they would receive two first-round picks as compensation.
Should Jones not sign an offer sheet with another team or a long-term deal with the Cardinals by July 15, he will be back with in Arizona on a one-year contract for an amount that is the average of the top five salaries at his position.
That it got to this point is really no surprise.
Jones was acquired last March with the understanding that he would be in line for free agency following the season, and though they have often expressed a desire to get a multi-year deal done, everyone from president Michael Bidwill, GM Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians have said the tag would be used if necessary.
The Cardinals sent guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick to New England hoping Jones would provide the kind of pass rush the team has struggled to find, and he delivered in his first season in the desert. The 26-year-old tallied 11 sacks, 14 QB pressures and 22 QB hits to go along with 57 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, three passes defensed, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
In part due to Jones, as well as the emergence of fellow linebacker Markus Golden, the Cardinals finished 2016 with an NFL-leading 48 sacks a season after finishing tied for 20th with 36.
This is the first time the Cardinals have used the franchise tag since 2012, when they placed it on Calais Campbell in hopes of working out a long-term deal, which they did a couple months later.
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