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Chandler Jones is wrong about the Patriots not paying their players

The Cardinals defender is absolutely wrong about his former team.

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Former New England Patriots defensive lineman Chandler Jones spoke to Tom Pelissero of USA Today about his transition to the Arizona Cardinals. Jones says he’s excited about playing outside linebacker in the Cardinals 3-4 defense, after the Patriots used Jones inside and outside on the defensive line.

Jones also discussed his parting words with head coach Bill Belichick.

“I didn’t get a chance to speak to [Belichick the day of the trade] – he was on a flight or something,” Jones told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “But I called him the next day and said, ‘Hey, you could’ve traded me to any other team, so thank you for not trading me to a crappy team.’”

Jones said he actually used a more vulgar word than “crappy” – he was cleaning things up for print – but the message was the same.

“He laughed,” Jones said of Belichick.

While we can dispute the quantum physics behind Belichick “laughing”, it seems that Jones has no ill will towards the Patriots. Jones understood that he likely did not have a future with New England, so he appreciated getting a one year tryout with a top contender in the NFC.

Jones will be a free agent after the season, and the Patriots have to give new contracts to the likes of linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, edge defender Jabaal Sheard, cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, and safety Duron Harmon. Add Jones in the mix and it’s clear that not every player was going to return.

If Jones departed in free agency, the Patriots would have received one year of service from Jones in 2016, and then a likely 3rd round pick in the 2018 draft. Instead, the Patriots traded Jones to the Cardinals for a 2016 2nd round pick and former 7th overall pick Jonathan Cooper.

That said, Jones did get one thing wrong in his interview with USA Today.

“They’re not known for really paying guys over there,” Jones said. “There were rumors going around that I might be traded, but you never really read too much into rumors. When it happened, it was just a tad shocking. But I packed my bags and moved on.”

I’m really happy for you Chandler, and I’ma let you finish, but the Patriots absolutely 100% without qualification pay players top dollar. Last offseason, I compiled a list of every single player the Patriots have given record-setting contracts to under Bill Belichick.

Just dating back to 2010, the Patriots have made NT Vince Wilfork (2010), QB Tom Brady (2010), OG Logan Mankins (2011), TE Rob Gronkowski (2012), CB Darrelle Revis (2014), and K Stephen Gostkowski (2015) the highest paid players at their position in the league. The Patriots also made LB Jerod Mayo (2011) the second-highest paid linebacker behind future Hall of Famer Patrick Willis, and gave FS Devin McCourty (2015) the second-highest safety contract, with the most guaranteed money for a safety in league history.

So don’t go around saying that the Patriots don’t pay their players. They do. They just have to earn it. All of those players were regarded as one of the best one or two players that their position in the entire league and Belichick and the Patriots rewarded their ability.

What the Patriots unequivocally do not do is overpay players and, man, is the edge defender market extremely overpriced.

We just witnessed Von Miller sign a 6-year deal with the Broncos that averages $19.08 million per season, the highest mark for a defender in NFL history. Miller is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and Patriots fans can point to his destruction of right tackle Marcus Cannon as the key reason for losing in the AFC Championship game. So, sure, Miller is outstanding.

But we also saw Olivier Vernon sign a deal with the Giants valued at $17.0 million per season, which is absolutely outrageous. He spent four seasons with the Dolphins and was arguably the best defender in the league over the final eight weeks of the 2015 season- but he was incredibly inconsistent in the time leading up to the end of his rookie contract.

The floor for Jones is roughly $8 million per year and a hot streak in 2016 could double his value. While Jones’ ceiling as a player is one of the highest in the league, he has never put everything together for a full season, and then his run-in with the police last season just added to the risk.

The Patriots made their decision to move on from Jones not because they don’t pay their players, but because they want to invest their money in low risk assets. That is why players like Hightower and Collins are considered a higher priority and will receive the large contracts- they have proven they can play at the highest level for full seasons.

Jones will likely receive a huge contract from the Cardinals, so this is a case where every party gets what they want. But I just had to set the record straight about the Patriots and their contracts.