Trades are a relative rarity in the National Football League. Trades involving Pro Bowl players are even rarer. A trade involving arguably the best defensive player on a perennial Super Bowl contender being shipped out of town?
It just doesn't happen, folks.
Well, it happened Tuesday. In acquiring defensive end Chandler Jones from the New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim demonstrated yet again why in three short years (and change) he's developed a reputation as one of the NFL's very best at what he does.
ESPN's Adam Schefter was among the first to report the deal that sent Jones to the desert.
In addition to guard Jonathan Cooper, the Patriots will also receive Arizona's second-round pick in the upcoming draft, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:
Now, before going any further, it's worth noting that Keim didn't rob the Patriots blind in this trade. New England gets a lineman who was once a top-10 pick as well as a Day 2 selection.
And as ESPN.com's Bill Barnwell tweeted, that's a better haul than the Patriots would have netted one year from now, when Jones will be on a collision course with a knee-buckler of a contract:
Patriots didn't think they could/should re-sign Chandler Jones at his pricetag next year. This is a better haul than third-round comp pick.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) March 15, 2016
Let's put it this way. Malik Jackson just received $15 million per season from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The New York Giants made Olivier Vernon the richest defensive end in NFL history at the beginning of free agency.
Neither player has sniffed the sort of NFL success Jones has experienced in his four-year NFL career.
In Jones' second NFL season (2013), he piled up nearly 80 total tackles and added 11.5 sacks. Last year, Jones posted a career-high 12.5 sacks and forced four fumbles. Over the past two years, Jones has ranked as a top-20 option at Pro Football Focus both as a 4-3 end and at outside linebacker in the 3-4.
Of course, it isn't hard to see which number about the Pro Bowler most appealed to Keim:
Arizona sacks in 2015: 36 (fewest of playoff teams)— ESPN (@espn) March 15, 2016
Chandler Jones sacks: 12.5 (5th in NFL) pic.twitter.com/HErnYcz4YW
As good as the Arizona defense has been the last couple of years, the pass rush has been erratic at best and nonexistent at worst. The team has turned to plucking castoffs such as John Abraham and Dwight Freeney off the scrap heap in an effort to get after the quarterback.
Both Abraham and Freeney had their moments, but in Jones, Keim and the Cardinals have acquired an elite pass-rusher just entering his prime. A player who could anchor their pass rush for years to come.
And as Jared Dubin of CBS Sports wrote, Jones' versatility no doubt appealed to an Arizona defense that has developed a reputation for throwing the kitchen sink at opponents:
With Tuesday's acquisition of Chandler Jones from the New England Patriots, the Cards finally have an in-his-prime outside rush complement to (Calais) Campbell's interior brilliance. It helps that the 26-year-old Jones' specialty is his versatility. Players that suit up for a Bill Belichick defense need to have that attribute, and Jones has it in spades. He lined up all over the place for the Pats: left, right and middle (he was probably around the right around three-quarters of the time, but he could still rush from anywhere Belichick and Matt Patricia lined him up); standing up or with his hand on the ground.
For his part, Calais Campbell seemed to be rather pleased with the day's events:
Is there risk involved? Absolutely. The Cardinals will face the same dilemma a year from now the Patriots would have—trying to clear enough space on the books for a megadeal.
There was also a bizarre incident (allegedly involving synthetic marijuana, according to the Boston Globe) back in January in which a shirtless Jones wandered into a Massachusetts police station asking for help.
As is usually the case with the tight-lipped Patriots, details of exactly what happened aren't readily available, although Jones admitted to Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe that he screwed up:
Chandler Jones: "I made a really stupid mistake."— Michael Whitmer (@GlobeWhitmer) January 14, 2016
As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported at the time, the alleged incident itself is grounds to land Jones in the first stage of the NFL's substance-abuse program. Any more missteps, and the Redbirds' prize acquisition will be a spectator for a good long while.
However, this is a case where the potential reward far outweighs the risk. The Cardinals spent most of last year as one of the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 50. It's a team without many glaring needs. Pass-rush help was chief among them.
It's not a need any longer—or at least not a pressing one. That's because as Keim has done time and again since he took the reins back in 2013, he did what great general managers do. What separates them from good ones.
He managed to make a good team even better.
Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks.