Going into training camp, the Las Vegas Raiders appeared to be set at edge rusher. Earlier in the offseason, Maxx Crosby was coming off of his best year as a pro, Yannick Ngakoue had a ten-sack season, and everyone was excited for the next chapter in Malcolm Koonce’s development. However, the new Raiders regime shocked the system by signing All-Pro linebacker, Chandler Jones, to a three-year, $51 million contract.
Jones, like fellow All-Pro offseason acquisition, wide receiver Davante Adams, brings a lot of prestige to a young roster. Both men are in their prime and have elevated the Silver and Black to contender status, but it got me thinking. With a few years left to polish off a legacy, has Jones done enough to warrant Hall of Fame consideration?
Is Chandler Jones a Hall of Famer?
Quietly, Jones has had an exceptionally productive career. Since the New England Patriots selected Jones out of Syracuse with the 21st pick in the 2012 NFL draft, he’s amassed 33 forced fumbles, 118 tackles for a loss, and 107.5 sacks. Jones averages three forced fumbles and 11 sacks per season. Since Jones entered the league in 2012, only Khalil Mack (15 in 2015 and 11 in 2016) has registered 11 sacks in a season for the Raiders.
Jones is currently 25th all-time in official sacks, two takedowns behind Raiders’ record-holder, Greg Townsend. Respectable numbers, to be sure, and Jones’ resume is littered with All-Pros and Pro Bowl appearances. But if he hung up his cleats right now, would he be a Hall of Famer? It’s unlikely.
He’s in a murky area for one big reason. Because believe it or not, Jones has more sacks than J.J. Watt. He’s only a few sacks behind Von Miller. Both of those men are definitely going into the Hall of Fame. But Watt won the league’s defensive answer to the MVP, the AP’s Defensive Player of the Year award, on three different occasions, and Miller won the Super Bowl MVP by single-handedly neutralizing Cam Newton.
For all the sacks and forced fumbles, Jones’ career is still missing that iconic performance, and while he’s no stranger to accolades, his legacy is missing the awards that matter… but the reason this article is on the Raider Ramble and not the Cardinal Chatterbox is that his career isn’t over. Jones can still make his Canton dreams a reality.
What would it take for Chandler Jones?
The easy answer is a monster season. If Jones led the league in sacks and piledrove Matthew Stafford into obscurity in the Super Bowl, that would be a nice feather in his cap. But that’s true for many players. There are a handful of good-to-great defenders in the league that could be immortalized with one breakout season. What Jones needs to do is actually quite simple.
He just needs to keep on keepin’ on.
Jones actually averages a sack per game over the last four seasons, with injuries causing him to miss 13 bouts over the span. If he were to maintain a similar pace for the duration of his Raiders contract, he would end up with 168 career sacks, the third-most all-time. How realistic is that? Well, it’s complicated.
You’re never sure when an athlete’s decline is going to happen. For some, it’s abrupt, like Peyton Manning’s collapse in 2015. For others, they just seem to keep going. An example being another veteran who joined the Raiders late in his career, Jerry Rice. Jones is lucky; he’s not the main threat in the Silver and Black’s front seven. Most coordinators are going to prioritize stopping the young condor, Maxx Crosby. He’s going to see more one-on-one opportunities with the Raiders than he ever saw with the Arizona Cardinals or the Patriots.
I would say that in order for Jones to receive serious Hall of Fame consideration without a historically brilliant season ending in a Lombardi, he’d have to pass a man in a similar situation, Jared Allen.
Comparing Chandler Jones to Jared Allen
For a long time in the NFL, Allen was another guy that was consistently dominant as a pass rusher. In his prime, he averaged 14 sacks a season and was named first-team All-Pro on four different occasions. As he got older, he became more of a journey-man teacher veteran, before literally riding off into the sunset in 2015. Allen has been eligible for the Hall of Fame twice and been named a finalist both times. Unfortunately, he has not yet heard the call from Canton.
I believe that Allen will eventually make it to the Hall of Fame. Because everyone that has more sacks than Allen that is eligible for Canton has been enshrined. The likes of Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs, and DeMarcus Ware are simply waiting in line ahead of him.
Allen had 136 career sacks, 171 tackles for a loss, and forced 32 fumbles. Jones has already forced more fumbles but trails Allen by 28.5 sacks. If Jones can maintain his annual double-digit sack season pace, he should be able to catch Allen before his Raiders contract expires. The big hang-up? When he retired, Allen was 32, one year older than Jones is now.
Whether or not Jones ends up in Canton, he’ll be immortalized by the Silver and Black faithful if he can help deliver the Raiders their fourth Lombardi trophy.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images