Could the New England Patriots bring a familiar face back into the fold this offseason? If a recent ESPN list of the best team fits for the top 50 free agents is to be believed, the answer might be “yes.”
The player in question is linebacker Chandler Jones. A former first-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2012, Jones was traded to the Arizona Cardinals following the 2015 season. Since then, he continued his development into one of the league’s elite edge linebackers and most disruptive pass rushers in football.
With Jones headed towards unrestricted free agency, however, a reunion with the Patriots is at least a theoretical possibility again.
16. Chandler Jones, OLB
Best team fit: New England Patriots
Why it makes sense: At this stage, Jones — who turns 32 this month — has good reason to seek a contending team. New England showed a willingness to spend big in last year’s free agency, and it can use its familiarity with Jones’ game to pair him with Matthew Judon off the edge. Jones could also serve as a hybrid weapon for the Patriots. — Fowler
Scheme fit: At this stage of his career, Jones fits best in a heavily schemed front, which he will get with Bill Belichick in New England. And the Patriots need another pass-rusher opposite of Judon who can be deployed from multiple alignments. — Bowen
Jones fitting the Patriots’ defense is without question. Not only does he have experience within their system to begin with, he also has the skillset to succeed as an outside linebacker opposite the aforementioned Matthew Judon. Despite their age, a Judon-Jones combination would make for one of the best in the league.
And yet, a return does not appear to be in the cards for Jones: New England has bigger needs at other positions, and also lacks the financial resources to sign Jones to the contract he likely will be looking for. While a reunion would make sense on paper, the circumstances make it an unlikely outcome.