The 2021 offseason promises to be a challenging one for the Arizona Cardinals front office. Thanks to COVID-19, the NFL’s salary-cap limit could be significantly lower this year than it was in 2020. At the current moment, it does not appear that the Cards will have a viable amount of cash to spend on a roster that is in dire need of reinforcements.
Fortunately for Arizona, there are ways to create salary-cap space in time for next month’s free-agent spending frenzy. In fact, general manager Steve Keim could recoup a healthy amount of cap room by parting ways with the club’s highest-paid player.
Chandler Jones, the squad’s superstar edge-rusher, is set to earn a base salary of $15.5 million this coming fall. With that number comes a salary-cap hit of $20.8 million in ’21. A lot of money for a 10th-year defender who missed 11 games last season with a torn biceps muscle.
Parting ways with Jones would give the Cardinals $15.5 million more to spend on players that could improve the team’s playoff chances in ’21. Before the injury that occurred during a week-five victory over the New York Jets, the 6’5, 265 pounder could muster just one quarterback sack in four contests. For those who are counting, that sort of pace would’ve resulted in only four sacks for the 30-year old Jones.
Just two years ago, Jones finished second in the league with a franchise-record 19 sacks for the Cards. Only Shaq Barrett of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (19.5) topped that number. In his five campaigns in the desert, Jones has racked up an outstanding 61 sacks in 69 starts for Big Red.
Arizona has a pair of outside linebackers scheduled to become free agents who they may want to retain. Fifth-year pro Haason Reddick filled in brilliantly for Jones in 2020, amassing 12.5 sacks in 16 appearances (11 starts) for the Redbirds. Markus Golden, acquired in a trade last October, totaled three sacks in nine games (eight starts) for coordinator Vance Joseph’s defense.
Moving on from a talented performer like Jones would be anything but an easy decision for Keim and the Cardinals. The $15.5 million they would gain by doing so, however, will be incredibly tempting. There’s no doubt that Jones has been one of the greatest acquisitions in franchise history, but all good things must eventually come to an end.