Jones’ season was cut short by a biceps injury in October that sidelined him for the final 11 games of the 2020 campaign. Unhappy with his contract, the three-time Pro Bowler skipped the Cardinals’ June minicamp, and by July, word had gotten out that Jones had asked the Cardinals to trade him during the offseason.
Now, as Arizona prepares to open the season Sunday, September 12, in Tennessee, there’s optimism that Jones and the Cardinals can work through their differences and come to an agreement that will keep the sack specialist with the team.
Jones, who signed a five-year deal with the Cardinals in March 2017, is in the final year of that contract and will earn $15.5 million this season. Before Arizona commits more money to the 31-year-old, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim wants to make sure Jones is the same player who racked up 19 sacks in 2019 — second most in the NFL behind Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (19.5).
“Well, he’s coming off the (biceps) injury and obviously there’s no secret there, but I think that’s one of those things that we’ll continue to have one-on-one talks with him and his agent. I don’t do those things publicly,” Keim told the Arizona Republic’s Bob McManaman.
“Chandler is a guy we love, he has the respect of the guys in the locker room, and he’s a guy I personally would like to see finish as a Cardinal,” he said. “But you know how this business works. It’s not always that easy.”
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said he’s excited to see Jones return to action in Week 1 against the Titans, especially since he’ll be lining up alongside three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, who signed a two-year deal with Arizona in March.
“To get those guys on the field at the same time, that’s exciting for this organization,” Kingsbury told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Tuesday, September 7. “(They are) two Hall of Fame-type players that have done it all in this league. I know they’re excited to line up next to each other and see what they can accomplish.”
The Cardinals acquired Jones in March 2016 in a trade that sent offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper and a 2016 second-round draft pick to the New England Patriots.
Prior to his injury-plagued 2020 season, Jones was dominant in his first four years in Arizona, averaging 15 sacks per year during that stretch.
No player has had more sacks (97) than Jones since he entered the league in 2012. Watt is second on that list with 95.5. Mark Dalton, the Cardinals’ senior vice president of media relations, also noted that Jones has had a sack in all five of his season-openers with the Cardinals.
Report: CB Butler ‘Couldn’t Run Anymore’
Responding to a question from a reader about the Cardinals’ options to replace Butler on the roster, Breer wrote that he doesn’t believe the decision “came out of left field for Arizona.” He continued:
There were rumblings before this that Malcolm Butler couldn’t run anymore, and concern internally that his lost step would get magnified gradually, as the normal wear-and-tear of the season set in. So it’s not like they haven’t been working hard to try and find solutions for that eventuality, which at least prepared them for this.
Breer said there aren’t many options available in free agency or through a trade to add depth at the position, leaving third-year cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., oft-injured veteran Robert Alford and rookie Marco Wilson to fill the void.
“Those three guys delivering would be a way better remedy than some castoff from another team,” he wrote.