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Chandler Jones Worth The Price

Posted Mar 16, 2016

Cardinals anxious to see new pass rusher in action, and he's embracing new team

New Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones speaks to the media for the first time Wednesday.

Chandler Jones said he wasn’t thinking about his contract, the one that has just one year left on it as the linebacker arrived in Arizona to be the pass rusher the Cardinals have been so desperate to find.

General Manager Steve Keim thinks a long-term solution can be found. He was even willing to find it Wednesday as he sat next to Jones as Jones was introduced as a Cardinal for the first time following Tuesday’s trade with the New England Patriots.

“If he’s not worried about it, we can do it right now,” Keim said, drawing laughs from all in attendance, including Jones.

It won’t be that simple. But it may have been harder getting a Pro Bowl pass rusher like Jones in the first place, which is why the Cardinals felt so good about the acquisition – contract details aside.

“I have faith in our system,” Keim said. “I have faith that he’ll enjoy his time here and he’ll have a tremendous amount of success. Listen, as I’ve said many times, pass rushers don’t grow on trees. You have to put the resources into those guys.

“There are going to be a lot of pass rushers that go in this draft high, and some of them aren’t going to pan out. So, to be able to acquire a guy for what we gave up, and I know what he is, you saw it on tape, you saw that he can produce at a high level, I think he’s going to really produce in this defense.”

Jones already had 12½ sacks last year in a Pro Bowl season for the Patriots. But the Cardinals, who will keep the versatile Jones mostly on the outside and tell him to get to the quarterback (he will be a three-down player), believe he can flourish in defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s system.

The trade took three days, Keim said, and when it was noted it came out of nowhere, Keim pointed out that in dealing with the Patriots, “stealth is a good word.”

The Cardinals had hoped to find a pass rusher in free agency, but that hadn’t happened. Keim said the team had to stay disciplined to their process, and Jones becoming available – costing guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick – worked out.

Jones addressed a January incident when he was hospitalized after a reported bad reaction to synthetic marijuana.

“I understand you asking that question, but it’s something that I’ve definitely moved forward with, and like I said, I’m trying to prove and I’m proving that I’m not that person,” Jones said.

The Cardinals have no concerns about Jones off the field, and were thrilled he was obtained. Defensive tackle Calais Campbell said the trade was a surprise but typical of the work Keim has done as GM. Campbell also said that, with “all due respect” to the pass rushers who were signed in free agency, Jones is better than all of them.

“He’s an impact player,” Campbell said. “He’s just a guy who can change games. Watching him the last couple of years, he’s really a playmaker. I’m excited to be able to play with him. I think together we’ll be able to do some intense things, some crazy things.”

Jones shrugged off the idea that he was under pressure to be the stud pass rusher the Cardinals had craved.

“You can call it pressure, but it’s a job,” said Jones, who constantly smiled throughout his press conference. “Every player has a job to do. (Keim) brought me here to rush the passer, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

It will cost. Jones is scheduled to make $7.8 million this season. Given the contracts handed out to pass rushers this offseason, an extension will provide a big raise. Without a new deal, the Cardinals could franchise him after the season (to the tune of around $15 million), a total over two years that still isn’t a bad price for a guy who can get to the QB.

“Our mindset moving forward is to have him as a long-term fixture,” Keim said.

That would suit Jones, who called coming to Arizona a “phenomenal” opportunity. He turned down an offer to get uniform No. 95 – which he wore in New England – from defensive tackle Rodney Gunter, saying he wants to pick a new number for a fresh start.

He plugs into a defense that has been waiting for someone just like him.

“I try to do what’s right and what the coaches ask me to do, but when I go on the field, I try to be myself,” Jones said. “That’s what brings my best game out.

“My biggest goal is getting with the guys and jelling with the guys. I want them to know I’m not an individual. I want to be an addition. It’s going to be great.”

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