Nobody in the NFL has racked up more sacks than Chandler Jones’s 107.5 since he joined the league in 2012.
Though the 32-year-old sack master might be a bit beyond his best seasons, he’s still poised to provide an instant pass-rush push to any would-be suitor. So where does Jones want to land when free agency opens? Wherever he’s best utilized, that’s where.
“To be completely honest, it’s not about money at all,” Jones told Logan Ryan on The NFL Players Podcast, via the Cardinals’ team website. “Where I am in my career, I’ve gotten contracts, I’ve gotten the Super Bowl, but I think scheme is huge. Or for me, winning more championships. I’ll say it again, it’s not about money. I will say I want to go to a place that maximizes my talents. There have been times in my career where I’d say I caught myself out of position. I do take the blame, but at the same time it’s like, ‘Hey, should I have been doing that?’ I have enough comfort where I am in my career and this age to say that.”
The 32-year-old Jones began his career with four seasons for the New England Patriots and is coming off a six-year stay with the Arizona Cardinals. Along the way, he won a Super Bowl with the Pats, made four Pro Bowls, was twice an All-Pro, finished in the top three in voting for AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice and tallied double-digit sacks seven times.
After he was limited to five games in 2020 due to a biceps injury, Jones made a triumphant return in 2021 when he had five sacks in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans. It was hardly a foreshadowing of his production to come, though. Nearly half of Jones’ 10.5-sack output on the season came in that game and he didn’t have another sack until Week 9.
Thus, it’s fair to surmise the defensive end doesn’t view coordinator Vance Joseph’s system as the best fit for him to maximize his talents.
“Where does Chandler Jones become Chandler Jones?” asked Jones, the fifth-ranked free agent in NFL.com’s Top 101 NFL free agents of 2022. “Where can he maximize his talent? I think there were a few times you saw it this season, where you were like, who is this guy? Week 1, five sacks … so you see flashes of it, and I’m pretty sure there were times where people said, ‘Why did it disappear, where is it going?’ Not to put it on just the game plan — I’m sure there were a lot of different things that goes into it. But again, going into free agency, what team maximizes Chandler Jones’ talents?”
Despite his comments, Jones still produced in Arizona, so it’s difficult to imagine too many clubs that wouldn’t be a good fit for his talents and there’s few teams who wouldn’t welcome a pass rusher of his pedigree. Among those who would jump to the forefront as potential landing spots are the Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, along with the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos who are in an AFC West that has quickly taken centerstage for blockbuster offseason transactions.
For the initial instance in his decade-long career, Jones is a free agent. He was traded from the Patriots to the Cardinals and has never reached the open market until now. Celebrated for his ability to hunt down opposing quarterbacks, Jones is now in a position to sit back and weigh his options.
“There are a lot of different things I have to think about,” Jones said. “This is a time I can really focus on myself and what fits for me. Being a free agent, in my 10, 11 years of playing, I’ve never had the opportunity to pick what scheme I wanted to be in or what kind of defense. I’ve always (had it) handed to me. Not complaining, but I was drafted to the Patriots, and then I was traded to the Arizona Cardinals. While I was on the Cardinals I had about three defensive coordinators, a lot of different defensive coaches, and I never had the opportunity to actually say, ‘Hey, this is what I want to do.’ I get to pick what scheme I’m going to be in, and that will be huge in my decision.”
Regardless of his eye-popping statistics over the seasons, Jones’ production has often been overlooked. Jones has put forth an impressive resume and his remaining seasons will tie a bow on his legacy and perhaps provide a final argument for a potential Hall of Fame enshrinement. He’ll need a big push and a strong finish. And he’ll need the right fit to maximize the possibilities.