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Patriots release Jonathan Cooper; Did the Cardinals win the Chandler Jones trade?

After the Patriots released a former top 10 pick, we have to look at whether or not head coach Bill Belichick was outsmarted by Arizona.

The New England Patriots released OG Jonathan Cooper on Saturday, which means that the nearly 90% of you that supported the trade of Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals after 4 weeks might want to re-evaluate your reaction.

So here are the details.

Cardinals receive:

1 year of ED Chandler Jones at $7.799 million

Patriots receive:

4 years of OG Joe Thuney at average of $0.803 million per season

4 years of WR Malcolm Mitchell at average of $0.729 million per season

$2.389 million in 2016 dead cap space from OG Jonathan Cooper

Up front, it seems like the Patriots have a starter and future star in Thuney and a solid contributor in Mitchell for the next four seasons at a complete bargain rate (combined: $1.532 million per season).

The Patriots were also able to sign Jones’ replacement in Chris Long for $2.375 million. This means that Thuney, Mitchell, Cooper, and Long are on the books in 2016 for a total of $6.002 million- a savings of $1.797 million.

And remember, the Patriots were going to trade Jones to the Cardinals for a 2nd round pick whether or not they received Jonathan Cooper; Cooper was just the cherry on top.

When we look at the contributions of the players involved, Jones is playing like a star for Arizona. He’s performing like a top 10 pass rusher- although that is how he always played for the first half of the season in New England. He has disappeared down the stretch in the past and that is when Patriots fans will be watching more closely.

For the Patriots, Thuney is a starter and is probably the second best player on the offensive line behind Nate Solder. Mitchell has been the #3 receiver on the team, ahead of Danny Amendola. Cooper provided some offseason insurance at the guard position while Shaq Mason and Tre Jackson dealt with injuries, but ultimately contributed nothing.

Long, for his part, has probably been worth the $1.797 million saved in cap space.

Jones is set to receive a monster payday in 2017, likely in the realm of $13-14 million per season. The Patriots never would have been able to pay him. Is one season of Jones and a 2018 3rd round compensatory pick better than Thuney, Mitchell, and the cap space to sign Long- and possibly the cap space to extend the likes of Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins?

I think the Patriots make the trade again in a heartbeat, even knowing that Cooper wasn’t going to contribute. The 2nd round pick turned into two solid, high-upside contributors in Thuney and Mitchell and they’re going to be contributing far above their pay grade over the next four seasons.

And for those about to write, “we might as well say it was Chandler Jones for Cyrus Jones,” since Cyrus Jones was selected with the pick immediately before the Cardinals draft pick, that is incorrect. Cyrus Jones was the top priority for the Patriots in the draft and was going to be selected even if the Patriots didn’t have the other draft pick.

“We kicked the night off there with Cyrus [Jones], the first pick there at 60,” director of player personnel Nick Caserio said after the draft. “Kind of had both of those picks actually back-to-back, so we were actually in the process, prepared to pick two players at that time. As we were making the Cyrus pick, we were actually on the phone and consummated the trade with New Orleans. We were able to move back there and gain a fourth round [pick], which gives us an extra pick.”

Perhaps Thuney was going to be the second player, but Cyrus Jones was going to be the Patriots pick. The only reason the Patriots were in a position to get both Thuney and Mitchell was because of the Cardinals pick.

But regardless, I think the Patriots are happy with the pieces that they have in place as a result of the trade. Thuney is going to be a long-time starter and Mitchell looks like he’ll be in the lineup, too.

The Patriots definitely miss Chandler Jones on the defensive line, but the addition of Chris Long and the emergence of Trey Flowers has definitely softened the blow.

I think this is really a trade where both sides are happy with the result; both the Patriots and the Cardinals are winners...unless you want to look at the week 1 match-up between the two teams and the current records. In that case, the Patriots totally won. Bill Belichick is a genius.