Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has, by all accounts, had a rough season. One of his biggest offseason additions, Evan Mathis, was injured early on and has been out for the majority of the season. His latest draft class has failed to produce anything for him and his first round pick, Robert Nkemdiche, could be on his way to bust status if he doesn't shape up. And some of the other additions he has made, such as cornerback Marcus Cooper, started off hot but have failed to produce much over the long haul.
One name that does not belong to the group above -- Chandler Jones.
Jones has been fantastic all season long, dialing up 8 sacks and 3 forced fumbles through 11 games. Outside of the stat sheet, he has opened up lanes for other linebackers on the line of scrimmage and allowed Calais Campbell and Markus Golden to have more one on one opportunities while rushing the passer. He is everything the Cardinals have been searching for in a dominant pass rusher.
The question now becomes on what they do to retain him. As most of you know, the Cardinals invested a 2nd round pick in their trade for him knowing that he had only one year left on his current contract. He has done everything needed to earn a new deal, but should the Cardinals give it to him right away?
Given that 2016 has been a huge disappointment for the team, we are not sure yet which way they want to go. Do they think that they can still make another push in 2017 and hope that injuries and age don't bite them once again? Or do they go for a rebuild, stripping their team of veterans like Calais Campbell, Jones, Chris Johnson, Tyvon Branch and others?
The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. The Cardinals need to get younger, but they are tied to the contract of Carson Palmer and a change at the quarterback position as soon as next year isn't likely. Now it all depends on how much money Keim decides to dedicate to 2018 and beyond.
The bottom line is that the team knows what they have in Jones. He is a perennial 10+ sack guy that is going to make some big plays. But with big plays comes big money. Can they afford to pay him $15 million or more per year if they don't believe they are going to make a Super Bowl push anytime soon? Perhaps that's where the franchise tag comes in.
With core pieces like Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald and others locked in, the team may decide to go ahead and tag Jones and make one last push at a playoff run. If that doesn't work, they can re-evaluate once again after the 2017 season.
Personally, I believe they should make Jones a core piece of the defense and lock him down long term. NFL salaries are only going to continue to rise, so in 3 years, the deal they give Jones this offseason may look like a bargain.
What do you think, fans? Should the Cardinals sign Jones to a lucrative extension or place the franchise tag on him? Or, crazily enough, should they just let him walk in free agency and get a compensatory pick in return?