In a move that was not foreseen by many, the New England Patriots elected to trade their top pass-rusher, Chandler Jones, to the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday afternoon. In exchange, the team received a second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and former first-round draft pick, offensive guard Jonathan Cooper. The trade is at best a questionable one for the Patriots, and the team’s pass rush will suffer as a result of losing Jones.
As it stands now, the Patriots have five defensive ends on their roster, but only two of them are proven players. Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard both have experience and played well with the team last season. However, it is safe to wonder who the team’s third defensive end will be. Second-year players Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers will battle for snaps, but they will not be able to make up for the loss of Jones. His presence and impact on the defense will undoubtedly be missed.
In terms of what the Patriots are acquiring, this move hardly makes sense. The team invested a first-round pick in Jones when they drafted him in 2012, and all they are getting in return for him is a second-round pick and a bust player. Perhaps they felt like Jones would not re-sign with the team after this season, but they still got the short end of the stick on this trade. If the team was going to make a move, they should have gotten at least a first-round pick in return.
Granted, Cooper will fit in along the team’s offensive line and he may end up being a starter, but I do not think he was valued that highly by the Cardinals. The team probably could have gotten him for a fifth-round pick at the most, so giving up one of the best pass rushers in the NFL to get him is not a solid move. Bill Belichick must see something he likes in Cooper. Otherwise, he would not have made this deal.
For the Cardinals, this deal could turn out to be a robbery. The weakest position on the team’s defense was the rush linebacker spot, and now they will have a terrific young player to lead their pass rush. As a result, their defense will be even scarier in 2016 and they could end up being one of the favorites to make the Super Bowl from the NFC.
I have a feeling that the only reason the Patriots actually made this deal was because this class of defensive linemen is very strong. They must like one of the rushers in this class a lot and feel confident that they can get him in the second round. Perhaps either Robert Nkemdiche or Shilique Calhoun is on their radar.
At the end of the day, the Patriots deserve to be criticized for this trade. They are banking on potential over production which is not something that they should do with their Super Bowl window closing. Their defense will suffer as a result of losing Jones, and if they do not adequately replace him, then they may have a tough time overtaking the Denver Broncos come January.