Unless you count Chris Hogan as a splash, it took the Patriots almost a week to make a big move in free agency. Of course, knowing Belichick, that move would end up being a trade and not a free agent signing. The Patriots traded defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick.
The only thing surprising about this move is the timing. A lot of people following the Patriots realized it would be difficult to continue to pay Jones, Hightower and Collins, and that Jones was the odd man out. The reason the timing is a little strange is that free agency started less than a week ago, and while teams are overpaying for under-performing players, Belichick is trading his sack leader.
Jones had a career-year last season, leading the Patriots in sacks with 12.5, and finishing second in forced fumbles, behind only Jamie Collins. Jones' cap hit last season was $1.8 million, but jumps up to $7.8 million with his 5th year option for the upcoming season, making the trade all the more reasonable. Jones is set to be a free agent after the 2016 season.
In return for Jones, the Patriots are receiving guard Jonathan Cooper and a second round pick, the 61st overall. The Patriots hope to alleviate some offensive line problems by adding Cooper, who was once the 7th overall draft pick in the 2013 draft. However, injuries and lack of production have haunted Cooper's career since entering the league. Cooper broke his leg early in 2013 forcing him to miss his entire rookie season. He also missed 2 games last season and was benched for veteran Ted Larsen after being cleared to play.
After losing a first round pick to the Deflategate scandal, the Patriots have also added another draft pick with this trade. The Patriots now have picks 60 and 61 in the upcoming draft.
Being March, it is far too early to say anything but initial reactions to the trade. There are a lot of variables that need to go right for either team to win this trade. As of now, I like that the Patriots are maximizing the return for a player that you most likely will not be able to keep. That being said, the Patriots now have no reason to not pay players like Hightower, Collins and Butler. If those players are here long term, then this trade will have been good for the Patriots. If those players are gone in a year or two, then I have trouble seeing the sense in moving Jones right now.
By Matt Watts