The trade for Davante Adams overshadowed much of the offseason for the Las Vegas Raiders but the team made other notable moves. The signing of Chandler Jones on a three-year, $51 million contract was widely praised when it happen. The four-time Pro Bowler is one of the best pass rushers of the last decade in the NFL and was a logical fit in Patrick Graham’s defense.
Unfortunately, Jones didn’t have the season that many expected from him. He notched just 4.5 sacks in 15 games and was Pro Football Focus‘ 72nd-ranked defensive end in 2020. He was starting to play better in the second half of the year but had to finish the season on Injured Reserve with an elbow injury. Due to his lackluster debut in Las Vegas, Pro Football Focus named him one of the five worst free agent signings of the 2022 offseason:
Jones’ deal is pretty much the same as Von Miller’s true contract in Buffalo when you get into the details, and Miller recorded as many pressures and three more sacks than Jones in 2022 on 160 fewer pass rush snaps. Jones has had a phenomenal career and showed flashes in 2021 once he regained health, but there were enough warning signs to avoid a deal of this magnitude, and other alternatives available for much cheaper considering Las Vegas had just extended edge defender Maxx Crosby.
Jones has $16 million already fully guaranteed for 2023 making his contract seemingly unmovable, and now Las Vegas has to go back to the drawing board at quarterback.
Can Jones Bounce Back?
Jones isn’t getting any younger. He’ll be 33 when next season starts and has missed multiple games due to injury in each of the last three seasons. His contract is guaranteed for 2023 so the Raiders can’t move on from him yet. The team will have to hope that he can return to form.
Jones is a hard worker and team leader. He cares a lot about football and was on a Hall of Fame trajectory. However, a lackluster end to his career could derail his chances of getting the honor. The Raiders’ defense has serious issues and it would be a big help if Jones returned to Pro Bowl form. Jones and Maxx Crosby were supposed to form one of the NFL’s fiercest pass-rushing duos but the Raiders finished with just 27 sacks, which was third-worst in the NFL. The team won’t be able to spend big on adding another defensive end due to Jones so he has no choice but to redeem himself next season.
Raiders Need an Interior Pass Rusher
A big reason why the Raiders didn’t finish with good sack numbers was due to the lack of an interior pass rush. Defensive tackles on the team finished with a combined 3.0 sacks in 2022. Bilal Nichols was supposed to bring an interior pass rush but finished with just 1.5 sacks.
The Raiders would be thrilled if Georgia’s Jalen Carter fell to them in the draft but that’s highly unlikely. Luckily, there are some really good defensive tackles in free agency. Las Vegas needs to take a long look at Washington Commanders’ defensive tackle Daron Payne this offseason. He had 11.5 sacks this season and would be a big upgrade on the defensive line for the Raiders. He won’t come cheap but having him would help a pass rush that’s been underwhelming for years now.