For the past two months, Arizona Cardinals' management has insisted that outside linebacker Chandler Jones will be back with the team in 2017.
On Monday morning, the Cardinals made Jones' return official, as MMQB's Albert Breer first reported the Cardinals have officially placed the franchise tag on Jones for the 2017 season.
Arizona acquired Jones last March in a trade with the New England Patriots in which the Cardinals gave up their 2016 second round draft choice and former first round pick Jonathan Cooper for Jones' services. Even though Jones' contract was set to expire at the end of the 2016 season, the Cardinals moved forward with the deal hoping Jones would help transform Arizona's pass rush.
After the team finished 20th in the NFL in sacks in 2015, Jones' presence helped Arizona climb to the top of the NFL in sacks in 2016, as Jones finished second on the team with 11.0 sacks behind fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden.
Jones' 11.0 sack campaign marked the third time in five NFL season the Syracuse product had recorded a double digit sack total, and the first time he accomplished the feat in back-to-back seasons. Jones has recorded at least 6.0 sacks in all five seasons he's played.
According to Breer, by placing the franchise tag on Jones, the Cardinals will owe the pass rusher roughly $14.6 million during the 2017 season, making the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder one of the highest paid outside linebackers in the NFL.
The Cardinals were likely hopeful to get a long-term extension worked out with Jones, but with Golden's rookie contract set to expire at the end of the 2017 season, Arizona now has one additional season to evaluate its pass rushing depth before determining how it wants to build its defense moving forward.
Under the terms of the "non-exclusive" franchise tag designation, Arizona can continue to negotiate a long-term contact with Jones through July 15. If Jones receives an offer from another team, Arizona can match it or receive two first round draft picks as compensation.