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Cardinals’ Chandler Jones: ‘I’m convinced we have what it takes’

Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones (55) and linebacker Markus Golden (44) celebrate after an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 40-7. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Chandler Jones had a feeling the long-term deal he signed with the Arizona Cardinals last week would come to fruition as far back as a year ago, when he was acquired by the team from the New England Patriots.

As he told Mad Dog Sports Radio’s Schein on Sports, the topic was approached back then.

“Right when I got traded here the Cardinals were already planning on signing (me to) a long-term deal,” Jones said. “The franchise tag was just to buy them some time, so I didn’t hit free agency.”

The contract Jones signed is a five-year deal worth nearly $83 million, with $53 million guaranteed. It’s the kind of contract befitting a premier pass rusher, which Jones certainly is.

Last season, Jones notched 11 sacks — his second consecutive campaign with double-digit sacks — while also collecting 14 QB pressures and 22 QB hits. He forced four fumbles, recovered two fumbles and contributed 57 total tackles.

Had Jones actually reached free agency, he would have been one of the most sought after players on the market. The 27-year-old had no problem with being tagged, though, and is especially pleased to have his future in Arizona secured.

But while things seem clear for Jones going forward, that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to the Cardinals as a team.

Arizona slipped from 13-3 in 2015 to 7-8-1 in 2016, and this offseason has suffered some key losses in free agency. On the defensive side of the ball alone, Arizona will now be without starters in Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson, who left for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.

Jones admitted the team will miss them, saying both Campbell and Jefferson are great players and leaders, but expressed confidence the team’s front office to find talent and in its younger players who will step into expanded roles.

“We have some young players that are still developing that are going to be monsters,” he said. “Robert Nkemdiche, he’s still coming around. You’ve got Rodney Gunter, Xavier Williams; those guys are tremendous players and you guys really haven’t had a chance to really see them yet because they haven’t played much.

“I’m excited to help those guys develop and help them turn into professionals, and we’ll see.”

The Cardinals did prepare, at least in some way, for the departures, though no one can know for sure

Even with all that, Jones, who said he felt the Cardinals were close last season, is confident the team is still in good shape. Citing small things and injuries as a big reason for last season’s struggles, Jones said after watching film from last season he realized talent was not the issue.

“I’m very convinced we have what it takes,” he said. “We have Larry Fitzgerald back and Carson Palmer back, so I’m excited.”

Jones had nothing but praise for Palmer, who he referred to as a “great player,” adding it shows a lot that Palmer decided to forego retirement and take another shot at a Super Bowl.

Asked to compare Palmer, who has never been to a Super Bowl, to Tom Brady, who has won six, the linebacker said they are different players.

“They’re both good in their own different ways,” he said. “Both vocal leaders. It’s just an honor to play with guys with those names.

“Those names, I can put that on my resume: I played with Tom Brady, I played with Carson Palmer. It’s a great feeling and I’m just living in the moment.”

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