football-player football-score football-helmet football-ball Accuracy Arm-Strength Balance Ball-Security Ball-Skills Big-Play-Ability Block-Deconstruction Competitive-Toughness Core-Functional-Strength Decision-Making Discipline Durability Effort-Motor Elusivness Explosiveness Football-IQ Footwork Functional-Athleticism Hand-Counters Hand-Power Hand-Technique Hands Lateral-Mobility Leadership Length Mechanics Mobility Pass-Coverage-Ability Pass-Protection Pass-Sets Passing-Down-Skills Pocket-Manipulation Poise Power-at-POA Progressions RAC-Ability Range Release-Package Release Route-Running Run-Defending Separation Special-Teams-Ability-1 Versatility Vision Zone-Coverage-Skills Anchor-Ability Contact-Balance Man-Coverage-Skills Tackling Lifted Logic Web Design in Kansas City clock location phone email play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up facebook tiktok checkbox checkbox-checked radio radio-selected instagram google plus pinterest twitter youtube send linkedin search arrow-circle bell left-arrow right-arrow tdn-mark filled-play-circle yellow-arrow-circle dark-arrow-circle star cloudy snowy rainy sunny plus minus triangle-down link close drag minus-circle plus-circle pencil premium trash lock simple-trash simple-pencil eye cart
NFL Draft

Why Haven’t The Cardinals Extended Chandler Jones?

  • The Draft Network
  • June 21, 2021
  • Share

“Benjamin Solak has been signed to a five-year, $200M deal with The Draft Network. A record-setting extension.”

Yeah, sure it is—but it’s not real. NFL fans regularly cry “the salary cap is fake!” when desirable free agents hit the market or trade negotiations hit accounting speed bumps—and they’re kinda right. The Ringer’s Danny Heifitz found in 2019 that five-year deals are more likely to end after just one year than actually run through all five years, as teams either cut underproducing players or restructure and extend their stars. 

Look at Julio Jones as an example. The three years of his contract that the Falcons just traded away were a three-year extension with a whopping $64M guaranteed meant to keep Jones’ contract competitive with the blossoming wide receiver market. Jones signed that extension when he was 30 years old; now he’ll play it with the Titans.

Now let’s look at a different Jones: Chandler, the rush linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals. Jones is clearly way too good to be cut, but for some reason, the Cardinals haven’t considered him good enough to restructure and extend. Remember, Jones was a First-Team All-Pro player in 2019, when his 19 sacks were second only to Shaq Barrett’s 19.5. Over four injury-free seasons in Arizona (2016-2019), Jones’ 60 sacks were comfortably league-leading. Aaron Donald had 52; Danielle Hunter and Cameron Jordan had 48. Since Jones entered the league in 2012, nobody has more sacks.

Why is this player not getting extended? That’s the question Jones is asking—and the Cardinals don’t really have a good answer.

There was no reason for the Cardinals not to extend Jones if he asked for it after the 2019 season. Jones was ludicrously productive for a 29-year-old and the Cardinals had available money, but they used it to absorb DeAndre Hopkins’ contract via trade, then extend him. After the 2020 season, there’s a case to be made that Jones’ slow start (only 10 QB pressures through five games) and season-ending biceps injury foretell his eventual decline. But the Cardinals spent significant money this offseason on 33-year-old A.J. Green and 32-year-old J.J. Watt, both of whom have had recent major injuries, are older than Jones, and have experienced more noticeable drop-offs in play over the last few years relative to Jones. Trading for and extending Rodney Hudson (three years, $30M, 32 years old) wasn’t cheap either.

If we look closer at Watt, we might find a cautionary tale for Jones. Watt was an All-Pro as a 29-year-old in 2018, when he totaled 16 sacks. He only had four sacks in eight games during the 2019 season before a chest injury ended his season. He came back for all 16 games in 2020 but only totaled five sacks all year, marking a career low in sacks for a single season.

Jones was a 2019 All-Pro, one year after Watt. He suffered a season-ending upper-body injury the next season, one year after Watt. Maybe this year he’ll tail off in production, just like Watt did last year. All of this would be fine as a cautionary tale for extending Jones... if the Cardinals didn’t just sign Watt to a two-year, $31M deal! The very problem you may be trying to avoid by leaving Jones’ contract untouched, you’ve welcomed with the Watt extension.

This is the rub for Jones, and his frustration and accompanying holdout makes too much sense within this lens. There is seemingly no reason for the Cardinals to bet on Watt over him, and yet that seems to be what they’re doing. And if they’re just pooling aging veterans for an aggressive one-year push, maybe they should have checked in with their best player and defensive lynchpin first—or at least acknowledged that a player can see the contracts they sign with other guys.

Put simply, Jones is the sort of player that you make the mistake of paying. Not Green, not Hudson, maybe Watt—but definitely Jones, for his ironman availability, proven success, and locker room influence. A mercenary-like approach to free agency will burn bridges quickly, and for a player who has delivered plus value to your organization for four of the five years he’s been under contract with you, that bridge can go mighty fast. Jones is reasonably frustrated with the Cardinals, and it’s bad business to leave him without a new deal considering the moves already made. 

A new deal is still possible. Jones is due $15.5M in base salary in 2021—all of that money is non-guaranteed. By extending Jones just two seasons, the Cardinals could turn some of that money into guaranteed cash, putting it into Jones’ pocket today while creating short-term cap space for another one-year contract. But if that bridge truly is burned, I can’t see Jones making such a team-friendly move unless it came with astounding guaranteed money in the additional years. Why would he, when he restructured his deal in 2019 to help the team and has seen no favorable treatment since?

The Jones-Cardinals relationship feels sour and unlikely to sweeten unless owner Michael Bidwill really opens his wallet and makes Jones happy. That hasn’t happened yet, and I can’t think of a reason it will suddenly happen anytime soon. This holdout looks like it could be a long one.

Filed In

Related Articles

Written By

The Draft Network