Cardinals’ Chandler Jones ‘excited’ to test 2022 NFL free agency; Pro Bowler not expected to return to Arizona

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill wants two-time All-Pro pass rusher Chandler Jones back on the team in 2022. But Jones, one of the top edge defenders set to hit free agency this month, hinted on “The NFL Players Podcast” Friday he wants to test the open market for the first time in his career. Not only that, but the four-time Pro Bowler is unlikely to return to Arizona once he does so, according to Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website.

Five years after Arizona used the franchise tag to keep Jones from hitting the market, the Cardinals did not exercise the one-year tender on the 32-year-old Jones this offseason, effectively ensuring he’ll get a chance to negotiate with other teams. Arizona could still re-sign Jones ahead of free agency, but the veteran’s representation can begin contract talks during the NFL‘s legal-tampering period starting March 14, and deals can be finalized two days later. Jones, meanwhile, sounds eager to explore his options.

“Where I am in my career, I’ve gotten contracts, I’ve gotten the Super Bowl, but I think scheme is huge,” he said on the podcast. “I will say I want to go to a place that maximizes my talents … Where does Chandler Jones become Chandler Jones? Where can he maximize his talent? … This is a time I can really focus on myself and what fits for me. Being a free agent, in my 10, 11 years of playing, I’ve never had the opportunity to pick what scheme I wanted to be in or what kind of defense.”

Jones added that “Arizona has been tremendous” and thinks the Cardinals are headed in the right direction, despite a sour finish to their 2021 season. But he reiterated that free agency is “exciting for me,” looking forward to potential new opportunities.

Urban, of the Cardinals’ team website, wrote Friday that “it’s hard to see Jones playing for a deeply discounted contract just because he likes a team’s scheme,” but admitted “(it) seems unlikely he will end up returning to Arizona at this point.”

Arizona is projected to have just over $5 million in salary cap space entering free agency, but Jones could command a lucrative deal as one of the most accomplished pass rushers set to be available. CBS Sports projected a $16.75 million annual average for Jones on a future contract.

Jones has spent the last six seasons of his career with the Cardinals, logging 71.5 sacks during that time. A former Patriots standout who won a Super Bowl in New England, he has 107.5 sacks for his career, which ranks in the NFL’s top 40 all time.

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