New England Patriots Rumors: Chandler Jones reunion a possibility

Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals (55) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals (55) Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots have a lot of work to do this offseason. Despite a three win improvement over the 2020 season, which helped lead to a Wild Card appearance, the Buffalo Bills proved in that game alone that while the progress is nice, it isn’t enough yet.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be in the next few seasons, and with a couple of solid moves, New England can take the next step forward in 2022. It will be difficult, given a limited salary cap and that a number of players from the 2021 squad are set to hit the free agent market, but it won’t be impossible. The ship isn’t going to get fully turned around in just one season, and it’s unrealistic to expect anything else.

It’s tough to know what the Patriots intend to do or are going to do because much of their offseason planning depends on J.C. Jackson, as the star cornerback will single-handedly determine the course of the offseason. Despite that, New England’s front office isn’t going to sit and wait to see what happens; they are going to actively identify targets in free agency, the draft, and the trade market, regardless of what happens, and we are going to do the same here at C&C.

The free agent class set to hit the market is pretty solid, and there could be some big names on the move as a result. Or in the case of Chandler Jones, there could be some reunions in store. Considering how Jones is set for free agency, and the Pats need some more firepower for their pass rush, it’s not a stretch to imagine Jones coming back to New England to close out his career.

New England Patriots could unlock their defensive potential by adding Chandler Jones

The Patriots pass rush was much better in 2021 than it was in 2020. That was primarily the result of adding Matthew Judon in free agency, as he contributed a team leading 12.5 sacks. However, his production tailed off at the end of the season, and there wasn’t much production behind him in the sack department. While adding an edge rusher probably isn’t at the top of the offseason to-do list, adding Jones would give the Pats one of the deadliest pass rushing combos in the league.

For those who forgot, Jones illustrious career started with the New England Patriots. He spent his first four seasons with the Pats, and he was part of the 2014 Super Bowl squad. During this time, Jones developed into the team’s best pass rusher, and earned his first Pro Bowl berth in 2015 when he picked up 12.5 sacks.

That just so happened to be Jones’ last season in New England, as Bill Belichick shipped him off to the Arizona Cardinals so that he could avoid handing him a massive extension. Jones career really took off in Arizona, as he turned into one of the top pass rushers in the league. He’s recorded at least 10 sacks in all but one of his seasons with the Cards, and that was in 2020 when he played only five games.

Now Jones is a free agent, and it’s probably safe to assume he won’t be returning to Arizona. Jones was unhappy with his contract last offseason and requested a trade, but he ended up sticking around to finish out his deal. That should be music to New England’s ears, as they could try to bring back Jones to help out an upstart Pats team.

Jones will be 32 by the time the upcoming season starts, but his production is still solid. He made it to his fourth Pro Bowl, racking up 10.5 sacks and six forced fumbles over 15 games, despite getting tons of attention from opposing offensive lines. Jones was supposed to team up with J.J. Watt and destroy o-lines, but that never happened. An unexpected 11 sack campaign from Markus Golden helped, but he benefitted a lot from the added attention Jones was drawing.

Pairing up Jones with Judon could be a work hazard for opposing quarterbacks. Judon appears to be entering his prime, and while Jones’ best days are probably behind him, playing alongside Judon could allow him to get freed up from the double teams he has become so accustomed to in Arizona. Jones also has experience playing in New England’s system, which is a plus that makes him stand out among other potential targets.

Jones is going to command a deal worth at least $15 million per year, which could be an issue for the New England Patriots depending on what they decide to do this offseason. If the front office decides to move on from Jackson, they could try to load up their front seven and get by with a weaker secondary, which isn’t the worst idea. We just saw the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl with a makeshift secondary thanks to a dominant front seven that could take over games.

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Adding an edge rusher isn’t going to be the team’s top priority this offseason, but it could become a solid route depending on how things go. Jones is one of the best in the business at what he does, and pairing with him an already solid pass rush led by Judon would be scary. It’s probably not going to be their first choice, but the New England Patriots could stand to benefit greatly from a reunion with Jones.