The Cardinals acquired Pro Bowl pass rusher Chandler Jones in a trade with the Patriots.
The Cardinals' quest to find a dynamic pass rusher off the edge and the questions surrounding the future of former first-round pick Jonathan Cooper were solved simultaneously Tuesday.
In a blockbuster trade, the Cardinals shipped Cooper, who was lined up to start at right guard in 2016, and their 2016 second-round draft pick (61st overall) to the New England Patriots in exchange for Pro Bowl defensive end Chandler Jones. Jones had 12½ sacks in 2015. The deal is contingent on both players passing physicals.
Jones, 26, is scheduled to make $7.8 million as he goes into the final year of his rookie contract. He will join other key Cardinals like wide receivers Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald and safety Tyrann Mathieu who are in the last year of their respective deals.
But Jones is a player the Cardinals figure to want long-term after seeking such a pass rush talent for years. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, he should fit nicely into a linebacker role in the Cards' defense, much like veteran Dwight Freeney did a season ago. Jones should start opposite 2015 second-round draft pick Markus Golden.
Acquiring Jones does not rule out the Cardinals drafting another pass rusher, nor should it eliminate the possibility of Freeney returning. But it does check off the top box of General Manager Steve Keim's to-do list heading into the offseason.
On social media, Cardinals players were happy with the addition of Jones.
The Cardinals now have six draft choices: a pick each in rounds one, three, four and six, along with two in the fifth.
Guard is now a position the Cardinals need to address. They still have Earl Watford on the roster and he will be an option, and the Cards could still bring back Ted Larsen, who remains a free agent. The team also likes Antoine McClain, who spent last season on the practice squad.
Cooper arrived as the seventh overall pick in 2013 as Keim's first draft choice as GM, and played in training camp and the preseason like he was going to live up to his billing. But Cooper broke his leg late in the preseason, and never was able to return to the play he had shown before the injury.
He emerged as a starter coming out of training camp 2015, but got hurt midseason, allowing the coaches to move Larsen into the lineup. Even once Cooper returned to health, he could not regain his job. There was discussion about Cooper even trying to play center – another position the Cardinals still are looking to address.
UPDATE: Later Tuesday, Ian Rapoport reported the Cardinals had hosted veteran guard Evan Mathis on a free-agent visit, and had offered him a contract.
Images of the Cardinals' new outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who was acquired in a trade on Tuesday, pending physicals