Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones motivated by trade from Patriots: 'I never want to be traded again'

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Chandler Jones motivated by trade from Patriots: 'I never want to be traded again'

Chandler Jones has settled in as a member of the Cardinals, but he isn't getting too comfortable.

The former Patriot knows the nature of the business in the NFL and that he can be traded any given moment. Jones found that out the hard way when he was traded from New England to Arizona back in 2016, and he still uses that trade as motivation three years later.

“I feel like at any time I can be traded,” Jones said, via Kyle Odegard of azcardinals.com. “It might sound bizarre to say, but I’m someone who has been in that situation. I’ve been traded before and that little sense of rejection is a crappy feeling, honestly. That’s what drives me. That’s what motivates me. I never want to get traded again.”

Jones shifted from defensive end to linebacker after joining the Cardinals, and he continues to produce at a high level. The 29-year-old has racked up double-digit sacks in each of his three seasons with Arizona (11 in 2016, 17 in 2017, 13 in 2018).

But it appears Jones may have learned a valuable lesson from his time under Pats head coach Bill Belichick: it isn't all about stats.

“It’s not about getting double-digit sacks,” Jones told Odegard. “The big thing is just being consistent. Speaking from a coach’s perspective, you want a player that’s consistent. You want a player that you know what you’re going to get day in and day out, on and off the field. A lot of that gives credit to some of my numbers, and hopefully I can stay consistent.”

Jones signed a five-year, $82.5 million extension in 2017, so using his trade from the Patriots as fuel certainly seems to have paid off.

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Bill Belichick's Top 20 shrewdest draft trades

Bill Belichick's Top 20 shrewdest draft trades

No team has more than draft picks in this month's draft than the Patriots, who own 12 selections, including six in the first 101 picks.

But don't expect Bill Belichick to come out of the draft with a dozen new players. Since Belichick took over in Foxboro, no team has trafed more picks during the draft than the Pats.

How many? Try a whopping 71 deals, including eight last year, tying the high-water mark they set way back in 2003. Sometimes the Patriots package picks and move up; sometimes they trade down and add capital in future drafts.

But over the years, all of those swaps have yielded a host of Pro Bowlers and cogs of future Super Bowl championship teams.

Tom E. Curran has looked back at all the trades and ranks Belichick's 20 shrewdest draft deals.

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Curran: Trey Flowers will be a big-ticket item for the Patriots very soon

Curran: Trey Flowers will be a big-ticket item for the Patriots very soon

Last week, Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter signed a big, fat, five-year, $72 million deal with $40 million guaranteed.

I’m a little ashamed to admit that my first reaction was, “Who he?”

His name just isn’t on my radar as being a guy who would be pulling down that kind of dough. But he is. A third-round pick from LSU in 2015, Hunter had 12.5 sacks in 2016 and became a starter last season. He’s a good, young defensive end for one of the NFL’s better defenses.

Why is he relevant? Because his contract is now a comp for Trey Flowers to use as he and the Patriots try and figure a way to keep him around past 2018. Flowers – like Hunter – is entering his fourth season. He basically missed all of his rookie season with a shoulder injury after being drafted in the fourth round out of Arkansas.

In 2016, he emerged as a rising star with seven sacks in the regular season and 2.5 more in the playoffs. Last year, he had six sacks. He is the Patriots best young pass-rusher.

But – as the recent past has shown – the Patriots are not afraid to slow play negotiations with their defensive players or turn them into trade pieces.

It wasn’t long ago that a running offseason conversation revolved around how the Patriots would keep Chandler Jones, Donta Hightower, Jamie Collins and Malcolm Butler. They couldn’t keep them all, but a combination of three seemed imperative. The team was squirreling money away.

Then they traded Jones away in early 2016 before trading Collins on Halloween. The team let Hightower test the market as a free agent in early 2017 and he came back for less than what we all figured he’d make. And the Patriots let Butler walk away this offseason.

So one remains and he stayed for less.

Whether that’s a cautionary tale for Flowers or not, we don’t yet know. There’s really nothing not to like about his game. He’s a technician. He wouldn’t say crap if he had a mouthful (that’s an old saying of my mother’s). He’s pretty durable. He’ll be good for a while.

It’s easy to imagine the Patriots getting sticker shock after seeing the money thrown at Hunter. But – bizarre as it sounds - $72M isn’t what it used to be. The salary cap was $120M in 2011 when the new CBA started. It’s now $177M.

So-called “reasonable” contracts are obsolete within a year or two. Consider, Hunter’s teammate Everson Griffen signed a deal that was 4-58-34 last offseason and he’s considerably more accomplished than Hunter.

Time isn’t running out on the Patriots by any means. They can play it out with Flowers all the way through this season and right into free agency next year and then decide if whatever he’s offered is too rich for their blood.

Be certain of this, though. If Flowers has a similar season to his last two, teams will look at his work in the New England defense, compare that to what Jones has been able to do since he’s been untethered in Arizona and then bid accordingly. And it will get steep.

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