Browns Linked to Free Agent Pro Bowl Pass Rusher

Chandler Jones

Getty Images Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cleveland Browns need to fill the spot opposite to superstar Myles Garrett’s on the defensive line, and Cardinals Pro Bowl pass rusher Chandler Jones is being pitched as a solution.

USA Today predicted in a story published March 1 that Jones would sign with the Browns, giving Myles Garrett a pass-rushing partner capable of double-digit sacks.

Jones got back on track after an injury-marred 2020 by recording his seventh NFL season with double-digit sacks. There’s some age concerns now that he’s in his 30s, but he has the size and power to remain a vital presence even if his athleticism declines. 2022 marks his last shot at a pricy, multiple-year contract, though the Cardinals could opt to franchise tag him in hopes of working out a longer deal this spring.

Garrett, 26, is currently the only starter from last year’s defensive line who is under contract. Malik McDowell and Malik Jackson will become free agents on March 16, and the team is expected to try to retain defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is due for a raise after a strong first season in Cleveland.

Cardinals Want Jones Back at Right Price

Jones, 32, has a market value of $14.5 million annually, per Spotrac. Jones has had double-digit sacks in six of his last seven seasons, and the Cardinals are hoping to have him back.

“I can tell you we love Chandler and would love to have him back,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said February 25 on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “The devil is in the details. I’ll leave that up to (general manager) Steve (Keim) and Chandler’s representative to work on, but we love Chandler, what he has done for us in the past and hopefully in the future as well.”

Jones appeared to take exception to those comments later that morning, responding with three crying laughing emojis on Twitter shortly after Bidwill’s statement made the rounds on social media. If the Cardinals choose to apply the franchise tag on Jones, it would cost them just over $20 million per season, according to a projection by Over the Cap.

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Jadeveon Clowney Would Like to Return to Browns

Clowney, 29, notched nine sacks last season — second on the Browns to Garrett’s 16 — and he was highly effective as a run-stopper as well. Clowney signed a one-year deal with the Browns last offseason, and by all accounts, it went better than expected. He missed just two games — one with an elbow issue and the other due to COVID-19 — establishing himself as a consistent, reliable starter in the NFL.

“I want him here. I feel like he’s disruptive every time he’s out there, especially when we’re out there together,” Garrett told reporters on January 7. “The guy’s hitting his stride. I think he has a lot of football left and he doesn’t know that.”

Clowney said on December 31 he’d consider returning to the Browns next season but didn’t want to further discuss the topic until after the 2021 season ended.

“I would [consider returning], but we have not talked about anything right now. Just finishing the season,” Clowney told reporters. “We have a lot of guys on this team who are on a one-year deal, and they might be heading back or do not know what is going to happen in the future. Right now, it is just all about the next game, just trying to get through the season and doing what I can do for the team as of right now.”

While there appears to be mutual interest in a reunion, money talks in the NFL. Clowney is 29 and has a history of injuries. If he has an opportunity to cash in this offseason as a free agent, he’d likely jump at the opportunity, whether it’s with the Browns or somewhere else.

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