The New England Patriots engaged in a blockbuster trade with the Arizona Cardinals that sent star defensive end Chandler Jones to Arizona, in exchange for offensive guard Jonathan Cooper and a second round draft pick.
On the face of it, this sounds mad as Jones has played at an elite level in New England and it also gives the Cardinals' already loaded defense the only thing it was missing - a top pass rusher. However, if you factor in the Patriots neediness on the offensive line and the fact that they are down a draft pick due to the Deflategate scandal, it actually makes some sense.
They received Arizona's second round pick and a serviceable former first round guard in Cooper who will certainly help them out. This seems to be a trade that really benefits both teams involved but let's focus on the why it helps New England:
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Offensive line upgrade
Whilst losing Jones is obviously not ideal, it has allowed Bill Belichick to upgrade a much needier position in the offensive line, which really hindered them all season and in particular in the playoff loss to the Broncos.
Cooper is a former top ten pick out of North Carolina who has age on his side and shown he can contribute to a line in this league. There have been issues with injuries and inconsistent play, which have seen his progress limited, but there is a high ceiling for Cooper and if anyone can help him reach it, it's Belichick and the Patriots.
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Lacking a first-round draft pick due to the Deflategate punishment, it made sense for the Patriots to trade a piece valuable enough to demand players and draft compensation. They now have two picks late in the second round and four in the top 100, which will go some way to helping them recoup something of what that first rounder was.
They could even look to trade up in the draft considering the cluster of picks they have between 60 and 100, but that might not be Belichick's style and picking up value picks outside of round one has always been a strength of his anyway.
There is no doubting the high-end production and ability that Jones brought to the Patriots defensive front, 36 sacks over four seasons including 12.5 last year is phenomenal and his absence will be felt.
However, Belichick is obviously comfortable with his group of defensive ends and hybrid linebackers who can fill the void. Jamie Collins, Donta Hightower, Rob Ninkovich and Jabal Sheard have all been productive and there is still the chance to find a nice piece in the draft.
Kamalei Correa out of Boise State is an intriguing developmental prospect out of Boise State who might still be on the board late in round two and he would certainly be worth a look at for the Patriots.
Jones was entering the option year of his rookie deal and with the kind of production he has put up, he would demand one hell of a payout next season. Despite how good he has been, the Patriots have other priorities in terms of contracts, namely Rob Gronkowski, and Jones is just going to be too expensive for them.
So, it looks as though both teams have come out a winner in this trade, and although Jones will be a miss for New England, it was a business decision that needed to be made and they will most likely find other options to share his sack load.
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