The news was not unexpected Wednesday, when it broke that Chandler Jones was going to sign a free-agent contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Jones, who had come to the end of his 2017 contract extension, ended up looking elsewhere in the market after it had become clear he wouldn't be staying with the Cardinals.
The franchise's all-time leader in sacks will get a three-year deal reportedly worth about $17 million a year. He recently said he was looking for a team that could maximize his talent and not necessarily the money, although he'll still receive the biggest deal of any pass rusher this free-agent cycle thus far. (Von Miller remains unsigned.)
The Cardinals did add a piece to the defense Wednesday. They signed cornerback Jeff Gladney a former 2020 first-round pick of the Vikings to a two-year deal. Gladney was released by Minnesota before the 2021 season after being arrested for assault, but he was acquitted of all charges.
The 25-year old from TCU will try to find a spot in the secondary with incumbents Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson, with the ability – like Murphy – to play both inside and outside.
Jones' move means the Cardinals have a hole to fill at pass rusher. They have Markus Golden, Devon Kennard, Dennis Gardeck and Victor Dimukeje at outside linebacker, with the ability to spot-rush inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons as well.
"I remember the first-day vets were in the building after rookie minicamp, I had sneezed and he said 'God bless you' to me," said Gardeck, who signed his own new three-year deal with the Cardinals Wednesday. "I was just amazed he said that to a small, undrafted guy. But he's been a tremendous part of my career, teaching me pass rush, the way he does things and his thought process."
Gardeck said "a bunch of people" will have to fill in for Jones' missing production.
"My success in 2020 (seven sacks) came because he tore his biceps and when I came to the locker room after having two sacks, the highest moment of my life, he was so happy for me," Gardeck said. "That was the coolest moment for me.
"We're going to miss him dearly in our room, but it's the next man up."
The Cardinals have lost three key members of the team so far in free agency. Wide receiver Christian Kirk went to Jacksonville, and running back Chase Edmonds left for Miami. Unlike the loss of Kirk, who should fetch a potential third-round compensatory pick next year, the Jones loss could only gain a fifth-rounder because Jones has played at least 10 seasons.
Jones was acquired in 2016 in a trade from the Patriots and proved to be an excellent addition. He also improved his play after his 2017 extension, with a 17-sack season that year and 19 sacks in 2019. He finished with 71.5 sacks in his six Cardinals seasons, and that included a 2020 season in which he missed 10 games with injury.