If the 13-3 Arizona Cardinals had a single Achilles’ heel in 2015, it was a pass-rush that ranked 20th with 36 sacks (despite amassing nine in one game), 19th with a sack rate of 5.9 and 27th at Football Outsiders. As we saw in Super Bowl 50, getting to the passer consistently is as crucial as it has ever been in this league. The NFL these days is about passers and those charged with chasing passers, and the Cardinals needed the latter in a major way.
That’s why it was somewhat surprising to see the Cards abstain from chasing (or at least signing) big-name free-agent pass-rushers like Bruce Irvin, Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers.
But it turns out the Cardinals had a plan, saving their money and trading a player from a position of strength in exchange for one who should immediately become the best edge-rusher on the team.
It’s weird to see Arizona already “giving up” on 2013 No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Cooper, but the Cards already have a stellar offensive line with top-flight left tackle Jared Veldheer, Pro Bowl-caliber left guard Mike Iupati and the highly-touted D.J. Humphries — a first-round pick last spring. Sacrificing Cooper and a second-round pick in order to land Chandler Jones from the New England Patriots seems like a no-brainer.
After all, Jones is a versatile, blossoming 26-year-old coming off a breakout 12.5 sack season — one which landed him in the Pro Bowl. He’ll immediately bring strong Patriots residue to the locker room while making things a hell of a lot easier on Calais Campbell and Dwight Freeney (if he returns), as well as the rest of that D.
This is a team that was good enough to make a Super Bowl run without a good pass-rush last season. Now, add Jones — a former first-round pick who had four double-digit-sack performances last season — and you have a team that could finally get over the top.