It’s rare that an NFL deal (or a trade in any sport) makes both sides better, but that’s precisely what happened on Tuesday afternoon. Per reports, the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals agreed to a deal that would send stud pass rusher Chandler Jones to Arizona, and offensive guard Jonathan Cooper (as well as a second round draft pick) to New England.
Cards-Pats blockbuster from @diannaESPN and me: Cards trade G Jonathan Cooper + 2nd-rd pick to NE for DE Chandler Jones, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2016
On paper the Patriots lose this deal due to Jones’ elite pass-rushing ability, but it wasn’t an overly shocking move given the fact that Jones has had some odd off-field behavior and is also entering the final year of his rookie deal. As talented and productive as he is, the Patriots clearly decided they weren’t willing to risk big money on him in 2017, so getting something of value for him now made more sense.
Cooper’s Second Chance
Something of value, they got, indeed. Cooper did not pan out with the Cardinals largely due to injury and improved o-line depth in Arizona, but it’s hard to imagine him not working out in New England, who now sport a fairly pedestrian offensive line. A former first round draft pick and stud guard prospect, Cooper still has plenty of talent to tap into and could still end up being a stout starter. Even if he doesn’t pan out, he’s a shot worth taking for a New England offensive line that struggled badly on the interior a year ago.
Hypothetically, the addition of Cooper gives the Patriots a high upside starter at either guard spot, and allows them to fill holes as needed in the 2016 NFL Draft. That’s where their new second round pick could come in handy, as well. New England essentially makes up for the loss of a first rounder due to Deflategate, by getting themselves an additional second round selection. How they use it is anyone’s guess, but they could easily opt to draft another sound o-line prospect, a situational pass-rusher or even combine it with another pick ad try to move back into round one.
Whether or not the Patriots replace Chandler Jones with a draft pick or someone from within remains to be determined, but recently signed veteran pass-rusher Chris Long could also figure into the mix. Per reports, the Pats recently signed the former Rams defensive end, who topped 50 sacks during his time in St. Louis.
Long gets a one year deal… looks like he’s the replacement for Chandler Jones. Busy day in Foxboro
— trey wingo (@wingoz) March 16, 2016
At 31 years old and coming off a few down seasons, Long is not a sure-fire answer, but he is an answer. In New England’s hybrid system, Long can play with his hand in the dirt and could also be tested as a rush linebacker when the team shows 3-4 packages. Whether or not Long can still be an effective player at either spot remains to be determined, but New England has at least already addressed the loss of Chandler Jones and will likely continue to look for ways to ease the loss.
It’s entirely possible the Patriots end up winning big here. Cooper could excel in New England, Chris Long could be an excellent bargain signing and their new second round pick could end up being a stud prospect that helps them for years to come. On the other side, Arizona could be getting an elite impact player for a one-year rental.
That also could be all the Cardinals need from Jones, who absolutely is a difference-maker for a team that had been leaning on spare parts on the outside of their base 3-4 defense. Arizona already had a very strong defense operating behind an elite offense, but with Jones entering the desert and talks of seasoned veteran Robert Mathis coming town, Arizona could suddenly have one of the nastiest pass rushes in the entire league. Should they also agree to a long-term deal with Jones following the 2016 season, it could be a trade that they ultimately win in the end.
Regardless of how it goes down, at least for now, this is a deal that actually benefits both sides immensely and helps both teams address key issues stemming from the 2015 season. Considering both teams were in their conference’s title game last year, these moves bolster their already strong rosters and make them decent bets to make another run at the Super Bowl in 2016.