Veteran pass-rusher Chandler Jones is finalizing a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
The deal will be worth $51 million over three years, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
This brings his six-year run with the Arizona Cardinals to an end. The writing was on the wall after ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported in July he had requested a trade amid a contract standoff.
Fowler noted how the Cardinals invested a big sum in J.J. Watt (two years, $28 million) and handed out lucrative extensions to DeAndre Hopkins (two years, $54.5 million) and Budda Baker (four years, $59 million).
If Arizona wasn't willing to give Jones an extension before the season, then it stood to reason the stance wouldn't change this offseason. The front office didn't let sentiment get in the way of watching franchise legend Patrick Peterson walk as a free agent last spring.
The Cardinals may have had questions about Jones' value after he was limited to five games in 2020 because of a biceps injury.
The 32-year-old returned to form in 2021, finishing with 10.5 sacks, 41 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles and earning his fourth Pro Bowl nod.
Jones might have played so well that he priced himself out of a return to Arizona given how little wiggle room the Cardinals have with the salary cap. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the third-best free agent:
"The 2019 season saw Jones go from solid to elite as a pass-rusher, and he's maintained that status ever since. He attacks tackles with a full array of pass-rush moves and he's an effective run defender, though he's taken a step back in that department over the past two years."
Because of his age, the New York native wasn't bound to give Arizona a hometown discount either. This is likely his last shot at securing a major payday.
Jones might be on the wrong end of the aging curve, but he hasn't shown a reason why his performance will fall off a cliff anytime soon.
In addition, Calais Campbell, Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs and Cameron Wake are among the players within the last 10 seasons who registered at least 10 sacks in a season after turning 32, per Stathead. Cameron Jordan and Cameron Heyward did it in 2021.
The Cardinals are looking to contend for a Super Bowl in 2022 and want to atone for a disastrous second half of last year, culminating in a lopsided playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Smart front offices find a way to make the money work when the time comes to retain their best players. The New Orleans Saints have turned it into an art form.
Perhaps there was a way for Cardinals general manager Steve Keim to give Jones a market-level contract while fitting him in under the cap. Should Jones have another productive season with the Raiders, it will look like a mistake on Arizona's part.
Las Vegas finished 10-7 last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
The path back only gets harder in a division that includes quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Russell Wilson. Jones will try to help slow down those offenses for the Raiders in 2022 and beyond.