The Math Behind Why the Pats Traded Jones to Arizona
The MMQB Mailbag

The Math Behind Why the Pats Traded Jones to Arizona

Chandler Jones is now a Cardinal and Chris Long is now a Patriot after a surprising day of trades and signings in New England. Here’s the simple arithmetic that explains why Bill Belichick did the deals. Plus, reader mail

Bill Belichick traded away Chandler Jones, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Joe Amon/Getty Images

Bill Belichick has done this before with defensive mainstays. He let safety Lawyer Milloy go to Buffalo in 2003. He let defensive lineman Richard Seymour go to Oakland in 2009. And now he lets defensive lineman Chandler Jones go to Arizona in 2016.

For today, the move stinks. A complete defensive end, Chandler Jones, who led the Patriots with 30 sacks over the past three years, was shipped to Arizona for a crushing disappointment of a first-round guard, Jonathan Cooper, and the Cardinals’ second-round pick in the April draft, the 61st pick overall. In the short term, this a huge win for Arizona, which is a Super Bowl contender with one major missing piece—a well-rounded defensive end who offensive coordinators must game-plan around. That’s Jones.

Six hours after the trade, defensive end Chris Long agreed to a one-year contract worth approximately $3 million for the Patriots.

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Let’s understand why the Patriots just did what they did Tuesday. I have an equation for you. The math is fairly easy.

Jones was due $7.8 million in salary this year in New England (also his cap number), his walk year. It’s very likely he would have commanded a contract averaging $15 million or more in 2017 and beyond.

So that’s $7.8 million the Patriots got rid of Tuesday.

Cooper’s cap number is $2.39 million this year. Long’s deal is for approximately $3 million (also his cap number). The 61st player in the draft this year will have an approximate cap value of $710,000 this year. Cooper, Long and the No. 61 pick, together, equal $6.1 million in 2016 value.

That means the Patriots traded $7.8 million (with little future beyond 2016, because the Patriots likely would not pay Jones his market value for 2017 and beyond) for $6.1 million … and whatever that net gain of $1.7 million could be used for on a cap-strapped team.

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There are four other factors here:

• Long, the second pick in the 2008 draft, has made approximately $103 million in his eight NFL seasons. He has a sick amount of money put away, and he doesn’t care much about money anymore. This season—this contract—was about going somewhere he was going to have a good chance to win. In his eight NFL seasons, the Rams never had a winning year. So missing out on an extra $2 million or $3 million this year in Atlanta, Detroit, Washington or Dallas was no big deal to Long. What I found interesting in the Long sweepstakes was the attitude of a couple of team officials I spoke with who wanted Long. Their feeling was if he visited New England, and if Belichick wanted him, there was no way they had a shot to get him. And it turns out they were right. Long, for instance, loved Dan Quinn, the Atlanta coach. And the Falcons would have paid Long markedly more to play there. But the lure of playing with Belichick and Tom Brady swayed Long.

• This is a great trade for the Cardinals. They’d totally lost faith in Cooper to be a player, and in exchange for a low second-round pick, they get one of the best two-way defensive ends in football, a huge need spot for Arizona. Great move by GM Steve Keim, making up for the worst pick of his tenure—Cooper.

• New England made this deal with the thought in mind that four other vital players on the front seven—Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins—were playing on the final contract years in 2016. The Patriots knew they would be hard-pressed to sign them, some or all, and certainly wouldn’t have a good shot on a consistent playoff team to keep young stars like Collins and cornerback Malcolm Butler, also with an expiring contract after 2016. So this trade was an attempt to reclaim some value in 2016, and to set New England to get some value for a very good player for future years. That puts the pressure on personnel chief Nick Caserio and Belichick to make good things happen with the draft’s 61st pick—and with the Patriots other three picks in the top 100 this year.

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• For now, the Pats’ defensive end rotation shifts from Jones/Sheard/Ninkovich to Sheard/Ninkovich/Long, plus second-year players Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom. Will the Patriots' farm system come through? We’ll see.

A fascinating trade, with lots of angles to discuss. Those are a few. Send me your thoughts on the deal. I’m interested to hear what you think.

Now for your email...

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NO LOVE FOR RAIDERS IN MMQB

Was pumped to read MMQB this past Monday because, certainly, there would be a piece on how the Raiders had a great first few days of free agency. I would eagerly scroll the page, waiting to get to the part about how Reggie McKenzie has changed the culture in Oakland; how he didn't panic, fixed the cap, stuck to short term, veteran stop-gaps while he built something bigger through multiple successful draft picks (a few studs and a bevy of good, solid players), before finally adding the missing pieces in free agency this year. Surely I would rejoice at the mention of how agents are calling Oakland on behalf of players who want to go there because they see it as a place they can compete and win(!), a stark change from the recent past. Lastly, I would smile ear to ear after reading that closing line: “If the Raiders can pull off another solid draft, they may be a serious contender for years to come.” What did I do wrong Peter? Was it something I said? I can change.

—Brian G.

Nah, Brian. Sorry about that. The Raiders certainly would have been a valid option to write about this week, as would Jacksonville. My off-season columns aren’t as long as in-season, and I usually pick a topic or two to write about in some depth. This week I chose the Eagles GM coming back from his repose, and the Denver/Osweiler stuff. I hope to get to the Raiders in a future column this month or next. Thanks for reading, and, hey, don’t go changin’.

EAGLES DRAFT

I am impressed with what Howie Roseman is doing in the off-season here and think we are moving in the right direction. However, my concern is the draft. Howie's track record has some bad misses (Danny Watkins, Marcus Smith), and some great hits (Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson). It is so critical this year that we hit on the No. 8 pick because we have no second-rounder because of the Sam Bradford trade. Just wanted to get your thought on this.

—Jerry M., Wilmington, Del.

As I recall, Andy Reid was a driving force behind Watkins. But you’re right—Roseman’s draft record is not pristine. If the Eagles are to become the best in the NFC East, Roseman is going to have be right on Sam Bradford and he’s going to have to hit some prominent draft choices.

• MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: Peter King on Howie Roseman’s busy re-entry in Philly, plus much more on free agency

COMPENSATORY PICKS CLARIFICATION

There are up to 32 compensatory picks each year, and four maximum per team but is there a limit/distribution to how many can be in which round?  Could the Broncos get two third-rounders in 2017 for losing Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson?

—Jeff, Portland, Ore.

Good question, Jeff. And yes, a team is allowed to get more than one Compensatory Pick in the third round. In fact, it happened to the Broncos in 2005. Here is a blast from the past: Denver was awarded the first and fifth extra picks in the third round of the 2005 draft, and used those picks to take Dominique Foxworth and Maurice Clarett.

CHIEFS TAMPERING

In the view of the NFL punishing the Chiefs for the illegal contact with Jeremy Maclin before the legal tampering period began, shouldn’t the Eagles get rewarded with at least the sixth-round pick from the Chiefs? The Eagles obviously were the team to get screwed by this, when the Chiefs got an early start.

—Christopher, Dominican Republic

I hadn’t thought of that, Christopher, but it is an excellent idea—give the sanctioned pick or picks to the other team in the crosshairs. Thanks.

THANKS

In your section on the Eagles being penalized for tampering, you compared it to a speeding ticket. When I read that, it made me remember that I had to pay a speeding ticket today or go to court tomorrow. Once again this shows that it’s worth reading The MMQB every Monday!

—Bruce

Happy to serve, Bruce. Happy to serve.

• ROOKIE JOURNEY: Draft QB Connor Cook addresses captain criticism and more

WERDER/BOMAR

I sent a word of encouragement to Ed a few years ago when Christie was being operated on. I was stunned when he wrote back saying how much it meant to Christie and the entire family. Maybe it was being a Saints fan, but it was cool. There are times when Twitter can be a horrible place, but I respect people like you and Ed that let the bad stuff roll off you. Yes, we disagree at times, but we are civil. That’s something this country and this world could use more of. I bought the children’s book that Christie wrote and she asked her Dad who I was. He said that I was a “friend of the family.”  We hadn’t even met!

—Steve E., Royal Oak, Mich.

Tremendous story, Steve. And I know it is true, because I know Ed. He’s one of the class people in our business.

MARTAVIS BRYANT SUSPENSION

On Martavis Bryant, the league needs to figure out a sane marijuana policy ASAP. I have suffered from depression for the better part of 15 years. I have a well-paying, emotionally satisfying job, a family that loves me, an awesome dog; to the outside world, it is perfect. That being said, if it weren't for the occasional (sometimes frequent?) joint, I would have no chance of staying sane. I am depressed because my brain doesn’t release chemicals the same as everyone else’s brain. Being able to use marijuana has made me a very high functioning member of society. To take away a depressed man”s livelihood over something he may use to combat depression sounds counterintuitive. 

—Anonymous

Tremendous note. Just great. Thanks so much for writing it, and I hope the NFL reads and takes notice.

BRADY’S CONTRACT

You may want to mention that Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bündchen earned $44 million in 2015 alone, and has an estimated net worth of over $350 million. Is there another player in the NFL or professional sports whose wife makes more than $1 million a year, never mind $44 million a year? Is there another player in the NFL or professional sports who isn’t the main breadwinner in their family? Perhaps when extolling the “bargain” that is Tom Brady, let’s keep in mind that he doesn’t need to be paid anything by the Patriots for his children or his children’s children to be financially well off.

—Patrick

Good point. Actually, quite a good point. I guess I would ask this question: How many players in the NFL, with a wife who made $50 million a year, would walk into the office of that team’s cap manager and say: “Pay me 50 percent of what I’m really worth and we’ll be fine.” Not many is my belief.

FACTOID COMMENT

You lumped the Jets into your factoid of the week suggesting that their big spending last offseason didn’t pay off. Yes, they missed the playoffs, but to go from 4-12 to 10-6 and missing the playoffs by tiebreaker certainly justifies the spending. It is not fair to compare the 10-6 Jets with the 5-11 Jags, the 7-9 Eagles and the 6-10 Dolphins and it does not support your argument that “smart” teams don't spend big in free agency.

—Chris, Stamford, Conn.

Criticism noted, and it’s a well-made point. But the point holds: The four biggest spenders in free agency in 2015 all were home for January, regardless how close one of them came.

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