Sack specialist giving Arizona Cardinals their money’s worth

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) Chandler Jones
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) Chandler Jones /

The trade for pass-rusher Chandler Jones back in 2016 may go down as one of the best acquisitions in Arizona Cardinals’ history.

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has made his fair share of blunders over the past six years. The club’s top personnel evaluator has left the fans scratching their heads on more than a few occasions. However, a sly trade that Keim pulled off back in 2016 is deserving of high praise.

The prize from that ingenious deal, Chandler Jones, has been everything that the Cards could’ve hoped for and more. Keim forked over a just second-round draft pick and an underachieving guard named Jonathan Cooper to acquire the gifted pass-rusher. To say that the executive got the better of that deal with the New England Patriots would be an understatement.

From day one, the athletic defender has been terrorizing opposing offenses. Jones, to fit into Arizona’s 3-4 defense, had to undergo a position change. After playing defensive end for four seasons in New England’s 4-3 scheme, Jones made a seamless transition to an outside linebacker post in the desert.

Jones tallied 49 tackles and 11 sacks in ’16, his first campaign with the Cardinals. That performance was all that the front office needed to see. Keim and company invested heavily in the player the very next offseason, signing Jones to a five-year, $82.5 million contract in March of 2017.

It didn’t take long for the Cards’ brass to realize that they spent their money wisely. Jones went on a tear in ’17, racking up 59 tackles and an eye-popping 17 sacks. That outstanding number of quarterback takedowns led the NFL and resulted in the second Pro-Bowl berth of Jones’ career.

Last year, with former head coach Steve Wilks running the show, Jones returned to his defensive roots. Departed coordinator Al Holcomb brought the 4-3 alignment to Arizona, and Jones didn’t miss a beat. After he was moved back to the defensive line, the former Syracuse University product registered 49 tackles and a more than respectable 13 sacks.

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury has taken over for Wilks, which resulted in the hiring of another coordinator to run the defense. Vance Joseph will be bringing back the 3-4 system, which means that Jones will once again be back at outside linebacker. It’s not a big deal for the veteran, who has proven that he can excel from anywhere on the football field.

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Keim has received an enormous amount of criticism for his past mistakes. But give credit where credit is due. The trade for Jones should rightfully be viewed as one of the greatest transactions in Cardinals’ history.