Future secure: LB Chandler Jones ‘excited’ to be an Arizona Cardinal
TEMPE, Ariz. – At his introductory news conference, nearly a year ago to the day, linebacker Chandler Jones called himself a New England Cardinal.
It was an honest mistake — one he quickly corrected — considering it had been less than 24 hours since he switched teams.
Jones made no such mistake on Friday, speaking to reporters this time after signing a long-term contract with the Arizona Cardinals, thus ending any and all speculation about his future.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I mean, every interview that I’ve had since I’ve been here everyone has asked me, ‘How long are you going to be here? Are you going to be a free agent? Are you going to test the market?’ It’s all over. Today has been a great day.”
Of course, it was never a matter of if Jones would wear a Cardinals uniform again, but for how long and, more importantly, for how much.
The Cardinals placed the franchise tag on Jones on Feb. 27, which coincidently was Jones’ 27th birthday.
Nine days later, the two sides had reached agreement on a five-year contract worth a reported $82.5 million with $53 million in guaranteed money.
Friday, Jones put pen to paper on the contract, one that locks him up through 2021.
“I want to thank Mike Bidwill, our team’s president and owner; Steve Keim, the GM; and (head coach) Bruce Arians,” he said. “Those guys, they do a great job of taking care of business and they treated me so well and I’m so excited, for sure.”
Acquired last year after four seasons in New England, Jones proved to be the pass-rush specialist the Cardinals were missing in 2015. He finished with 11 sacks, 14 quarterback pressures and 22 quarterback hits.
With Jones and fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden, the Cardinals led the NFL with 48 sacks, a distinction the franchise had accomplished just one time prior in 1983.
“I mean the sky’s the limit for our pass rush, and I feel like last year we just scratched the surface,” Jones said, adding about Golden, who paced the team with a career-best 12.5 sacks, “Markus is a tremendous player and he’s young (25). He’s still learning, and I’m learning from him, honestly. We learn from each other. Even though we have different body types, there’s a lot of moves or different techniques to get by offensive tackles that really help the both of us.”
Overall, Jones called his 2016 numbers “decent.” Aside from rushing the quarterback, he totaled 57 tackles, including 15 for loss, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while starting all 16 games.
Jones was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
“You can never say you had a perfect season, so there’s always room for improvement, for sure,” he said.
That improvement, Jones said, will come just based on how much more comfortable he feels in the Cardinals defense. Jones was asked to play much of his time standing up rather than having his hand in the dirt.
“Just being more consistent,” he said. “There’s a few games where I feel like my pass rush could’ve been better. I’m not up here to make excuses, but just being more consistent, for sure, throughout the year.”
Jones also sees a leadership role in his future with the Cardinals, especially given the loss of defensive lineman Calais Campbell.
“When I was coming in here, I didn’t want to be the new guy coming in and calling guys around. You got great leaders like Calais and Patrick Peterson and Tyrann (Mathieu). Those guys are great leaders and they do a great job. But, now that I have a year under my belt and I kind of got those guys’ respect and trust now, I feel like I can be more verbal.
“Like I said, the sky’s the limit for this team.”