Hear ye, hear ye
The concept of being honest with oneself is a crucial component to self-improvement. It’s something that can and should be a part of our own daily lives as we strive to be the best people we can be, and also something to extends to our sports teams as they try to build towards the ultimate goal of a championship.
This is true when it’s time for the squad to enter a rebuilding phase, as we saw with the Ravens when they finally had to make a decision to pull the trigger on transitioning out of the Joe Flacco era, and it’s now something that we’ve seen (and are continuing to see) as they try to make their way to a Super Bowl again with Lamar Jackson leading the way. In that sense, it’s perhaps more crucial than ever that the Ravens brass look inward and make judgements on how they can get better prior to the 2021 season kicking off.
Of the few spots of weakness on the roster that Eric DeCosta and co. are currently mulling over in this regard, pass rusher is likely atop their list. So when a player of Chandler Jones’ caliber requests a trade from the Arizona Cardinals, you can rest assured that they’re considering making a move for him, and check your snark surrounding Ravens’ fans interest in them doing so at the door.
Yes, it’s 100% a cliché that whenever any player of repute is even rumored to become available that Baltimore fans immediately begin considering whether he’d be a fit on the social media platform of their choosing, but you can also make a case that it’s 100% warranted here. There’s no bigger question mark on this otherwise strong roster than at Jones’ position and of his particular specialty – in that case, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of acquiring him in the coming days, weeks, and even months.
We’ll start off with the negative because it’s good to get this side of the argument out of the way first, and also because there are some fairly obvious drawbacks to a trade for Jones. The first and most obvious, is the price.
In 2021 (his age 31 season) Jones will carry a cap number of $20.8 million as referenced above while the same sourcing here in Spotrac currently has Baltimore at around $7.2 million in free cap space. Right off the bat this poses a serious problem that could only be fixed if either A) a player of significant salary is included in the trade or able to be released without penalty which is unlikely, or B) the Ravens restructure certain contracts such as Ronnie Stanley’s which carries a base salary of $7.5 million.
Where both of these scenarios become difficult is the fact that Baltimore has a young, cheap team as it is. Of the desirable tradeable assets they have on the roster, there’s very few they’d be comfortable parting with, and those they might be such as Brandon Williams or one of their many young corners carry the issue of having too large a cap hit to be moved ($12.9M in the case of Williams), or not enough to make a dent in Baltimore’s favor in the case of some of the corners.
In this sense, the cap hit situation with Jones is almost impossible to work through in a straight up sense and it’s likely he’d need to be willing to make some concessions in this regard; for the purposes of this blog, I can’t (and shouldn’t) assume he would be. And that’s just the salary side of it.
As far as trade compensation goes, Baltimore would likely have to pony up to at least the standard fare this late in the game, especially considering the Cardinals need to make the playoffs this year to justify the Kliff Kingsbury experiment to the best of their abilities. Just ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft, Frank Clark was traded from the Seahawks to the Chiefs for Kansas City’s first round draft pick, a 2020 conditional second rounder, and a pick swap in the third – given the draft isn’t right around the corner as it was in that case, the Ravens may be able to get a bit more creative, but it’s hard to imagine Arizona not starting with a first and some action on Day 2, meaning a big time pony up for what may well be just a one year rental.
The third con would be Jones’ 2020 season amounting to five games played, one sack accumulated in that time, and a torn biceps in Week 5 that sent him to the injured reserve for the remainder of the year. Chalk it up to whatever you like, but there is certainly some risk (as there typically is in a situation like this) that you aren’t quite getting what you pay for.
Chandler Jones also had by far his worst season as a professional last year. Wasn’t a legitimate threat in any of the five games he played.
Injury ABSOLUTELY had to do with that. Didn’t seem nearly as explosive.
— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) July 25, 2021
The cousin of that however, is the potential damage he could do for Baltimore if he does turn out to be the missing piece. In that sense, let’s take a look at the pros.
The first pro is a current con of the Ravens roster, which is of course their depth chart at outside linebacker. At RUSH linebacker they start Pernell McPhee with Jaylon Ferguson, Daelin Hayes, and Aaron Adeoye backing him up; at SAM, Tyus Bowser is the lead dog, with Odafe Oweh currently the number two.
That group combined for five NFL sacks last season, and they of course only came from McPhee with three, and Bowser with two. Wink Martindale recently made headlines when he claimed that sacks were “superficial,” but even if he’ll 100% stick up the veracity of that statement, he’s probably at least slightly concerned about the lack of production amongst this group, especially considering Oweh’s zero sacks in college football last year were a reason he slid to the Ravens at 31 in the first place.
Where you may hear a counter to that is the lack of production and injury issue in 2020 that we’ve discussed regarding Jones, but contextualized against his recent seasons prior to that, there’s reason to believe that last season was an outlier and that he still has plenty left in the tank. In 2019 alone, Jones racked up 19 sacks; his previous low over the four seasons prior to that was 11 (2016, his first in Arizona), and he had never had less than six in his entire career up until 2020, the first year that he missed more than 5 games.
In watching one of his best games from that year, I loved what I saw. A long, strong player that made an impact for four quarters in a close game, and it was only partially representative of the great season that he had:
Chandler Jones’ 4 sacks @ NYG, 2019. Four of his 19 that year.
– Finishing ability
It’s all there. In ‘20? Not so much. But his prior track record speaks for itself, and while tough to pull off, my guess would be EDC is seriously considering him pic.twitter.com/keYV9nLRnt
— Jake Louque (@jakelouque) July 26, 2021
He adds veteran pedigree, talent, and production to a group that is to at least some degree lacking in these categories. Nothing against Baltimore’s current crop which actually does possess some potential, but it’s hard not to think back to games against Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen in which a lack of killer instinct seemed to rear it’s head, and since then the Ravens have only lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue and replaced them with a few rookies.
From that standpoint, Jones’ acquisition almost seems like a no-brainer. As always though, the devil remains in the details.
It’s hard not to hedge in situations like this, and I’m tempted to do so by saying the Ravens should make the move to land Jones, but whether they could pull it off is another conversation entirely. But that’s not the point here, and it shouldn’t be the point for anyone as these two points of contention are the only ones that matter in a scenario such as this.
In that sense, I’d love it if the Ravens land Jones, and I’d be equally thrilled if they could do so without surrendering serious assets and cap space. Ultimately though, they don’t only adhere to the creed of “right player, right price” when they see fit, and in a potential trade such as this, it’s my contention (and in my opinion theirs as well) that we’re talking about the absolute right player at (unfortunately) the wrong price.
As is always the case, we’ll see what happens, but for right now I’m expecting DeCosta to pass on Jones, or more accurately, the price it would cost them. Either way, please let me know what you think… yay, or nay, on Chandler Jones to Baltimore?
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