Shades of Seymour trade. This deal has some similarities to what the Patriots did in 2009 when they shipped one of their best players, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, to the Raiders for a 2011 first-round draft pick. In that situation, the team wasn't sure it would be able to re-sign Seymour after the season, so they traded him for assets one year before they projected he would leave as a free agent. Similar to Seymour, this was the final year of Jones' contract. He was due to earn $7.79 million and with a core of defenders entering the final year of their deals -- a group including linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and cornerback Malcolm Butler -- getting everyone under contract was going to be a challenge. So they started to thin that group out, while getting two assets that are valuable to them in return.
Assets coming back to New England. Cooper was the No. 7 overall pick of the 2013 draft out of North Carolina. He has not emerged in Arizona, so this isn't a big chip for the Cardinals to include in the deal. At the same time, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio once mentioned Cooper as having one of the highest grades on the team's draft board in 2013, so it's not a stretch to say that the club views him as a potential impact player and is banking on a change of scenery bringing out the best in him. In 2013, it was Dante Scarnecchia's final year as offensive line coach and his input on Cooper (signed through 2017 if the Patriots pick up his fifth-year option that will be close to $12 million in '17) was naturally significant that year. This year, Scarnecchia has returned after a two-year retirement. So that's a big part of this swap (they have to protect Tom Brady better up the middle), as well as the second-round pick. In a year that the Patriots have been stripped of a first-round pick by the NFL, adding a top-61 pick helps partially offset that loss.
Deep at defensive end. Without Jones, the Patriots are still well stocked at the position, with Rob Ninkovich and Sheard returning, as well as developmental prospects in Geneo Grissom (2015 third-round pick) and Trey Flowers (2015 fourth-round pick). When the club hosted veteran defensive end Chris Long on a visit Monday, it sparked thoughts that perhaps the Patriots would consider shopping Jones. It happened fast.