At this time during the 2016 offseason, three of the New England Patriots’ core defenders were about to enter the final year of their respective rookie deals: linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins as well as defensive edge Chandler Jones.
One year later, Collins and Jones are no longer with the team. While Collins has been traded to the Cleveland Browns in October, Jones has been traded to the Arizona Cardinals in mid-March. Yesterday, the team has placed the franchise tag on the 27-year old impending free agent, who plays as an outside linebacker in Arizona (according to Albert Breer):
The Cardinals have officially placed the franchise tag on OLB/DE Chandler Jones.
The Cards' tag on Jones is the first one to be filed. More to come over the next 48 hours. The linebacker tender will be at ~$14.6 million.
Now that the Cardinals have tagged Jones and after the Browns signed Collins to a 4-year, $50 million contract in January, only one of the Patriots’ former "big three" is left in the dark about where he will play next year: Dont’a Hightower, who is the only member of the trio left in New England.
If the Patriots also want to place a tag on Hightower – either franchise or transition –, the team has to do so by Wednesday. According to Jeff Howe, there is no clear indication either way if New England will place a tag on the defensive captain. Consequently, the Pro Bowler might not know for which team he will suit up until later in March, when free agency officially begins.