The new front office of the Las Vegas Raiders, led by General Manager Dave Ziegler, has been relatively quiet throughout the first two days of free agency. They decided to wait until Day 3 to make their presence known.
During the first two days of the NFL free agency period, the Las Vegas Raiders operated quietly, adding cornerback Darius Phillips from the Cincinnati Bengals and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols from the Chicago Bears. Fans and analysts were wondering aloud what the Raiders were doing as they continued to clear cap space. Shortly after the Raiders released a fan favorite, defensive end Carl Nassib, the news dropped that the Raiders had agreed to terms with free agent outside linebacker Chandler Jones, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, on a three-year contract valued at approximately $51 million ($17 million approx. per season).
What will Chandler Jones bring to the Raiders?
Jones, a four-time Pro Bowler, is an automatic game changer for the Raiders’ defensive line. Besides being a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro, Jones has logged double-digit sacks in five of his last six seasons in Arizona. Jones is not only a constant threat to the quarterback and causes disruption on the line of scrimmage, but he can also be found in the backfield where he logged 12 tackles for loss in 2021 and a career high of 28 TFL in 2017. While the Raiders have enjoyed the duo of Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue, the presence of Jones on the line elevates their potential exponentially.
It was also revealed that Ngakoue was being sent to the Indianapolis Colts. In a player-for-player deal, Ngakoue was traded to the Raiders in exchange for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. While this transaction comes as a surprise with new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham at the helm, Ngakoue may not be a scheme fit as Graham will not settle exclusively between a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive front. The versatility of Jones to play both the edge and as an outside linebacker, whether it is a 4-3 or 3-4, is invaluable to Graham’s vision for the future of the Raiders’ defense. Ngakoue’s energy and leadership will be missed, but the experience and skill set of Jones will be welcomed.
It’s not about the money for Chandler Jones
Jones, having spent the last six seasons in Arizona, made it clear four days ago on the Player’s Podcast, while speaking to Logan Ryan, that his next team will not be all about the money. “To be completely honest, it’s not about money at all. Where I am in my career, I’ve gotten contracts, I’ve gotten the Super Bowl, but I think scheme is huge. Or for me, winning more championships. I’ll say it again, it’s not about money. I will say I want to go to a place that maximizes my talents. There have been times in my career where I’d say I caught myself out of position. I do take the blame, but at the same time it’s like, ‘Hey, should I have been doing that?‘ I have enough comfort where I am in my career and this age to say that.“
Based on that statement alone, we can infer that Jones likes Graham’s scheme and thinks the Raiders can be both a competitor and a winner in the league.
What about the rest of the West?
The rest of the AFC West, specifically the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers, have been strengthening their front lines in the last two days, and Ziegler has made this move to stay relevant. The pairing of Crosby and Jones, however, makes the Raiders’ defensive line more than relevant; they are downright dangerous. The Raiders are in a pseudo arms race with the rest of the AFC West. Their opponents have made defensive additions in the division, such as Randy Gregory, J.C. Jackson, and Khalil Mack. This was a move that had to be made. The move is a breakthrough for the Raiders, hoping to again reach the playoffs in the 2022 NFL season, and additional transactions are sure to come in the upcoming days of free agency.
*Top Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images