The NFL offseason is always a thrilling time for fans and analysts alike, as teams make critical decisions that could define their upcoming season. For the Arizona Cardinals, the 2024 offseason has been particularly intriguing. Amid a flurry of signings, one move stands out as potentially game-changing yet highly controversial—the signing of defensive lineman Justin Jones. As the Cardinals aim to strengthen their defense and make a deep playoff run, this acquisition could propel them to new heights. Conversely, it could also become a cautionary tale of high-stakes gambles gone awry.

The Cardinals So Far

The Arizona Cardinals entered the NFL's legal tampering period with a substantial $56.6 million in cap space. This was the fifth-highest in the league. However, they refrained from making any major splashes. Re-signing starting left guard Trystan Colon was a sensible, if unspectacular, move. Colon's 69.2 Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade ranked him 18th among guards with at least 100 offensive snaps. The signing of defensive tackle Justin Jones, who will turn 28 on August 28, brings in an interesting player. He led the 2023 Chicago Bears in quarterback hits and tackles for loss. On paper, he should provide an affordable upgrade along the defensive line. The Cardinals continued to bolster their defense by adding linebacker Mack Wilson and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting. Murphy-Bunting posted a 62.4 passer rating when targeted. That ranked 17th among 71 players with at least 70 passes thrown their way.

© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Here we'll look at the one player who is the Arizona Cardinals' riskiest free agency move in the 2024 NFL offseason.

Justin Jones, DL

Standing 6'3 and weighing 309 pounds, Justin Jones became the second defensive tackle the Cardinals agreed to terms with in the 2024 offseason. He followed the signing of former Las Vegas Raiders and Bears DT Bilal Nichols to a three-year contract.

Keep in mind that Jones started every game for the Bears over the past two seasons and is coming off his best year as a professional. In 2023, he recorded 4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 17 QB hits in 2023. While primarily a defensive tackle, Jones has also spent considerable time playing off the edge.

Despite that, Jones received low marks from Pro Football Focus — 49.3 overall defensive grade, 47.4 run defense grade, and 52.5 pass rush grade.

A Standout?

Justin Jones does have a reputation as a talented player with a proven track record. His disruptive presence on the defensive line has been marked by moments of brilliance throughout his career. Known for his ability to penetrate the offensive line and pressure quarterbacks, Jones is an attractive addition to any defense. However, his inconsistent performance and history of injuries make him a risky investment for the Cardinals. Committing a substantial portion of their salary cap to secure Jones raises questions about the prudence of this decision.

Makes Sense?

Again, this deal might not make dollars and sense for the Cardinals. Sure, Jones has been solid over the last two years in Chicago and a decent starter for much of his career. However, it's puzzling why a rebuilding Arizona team would invest heavily in a soon-to-be 28-year-old who may never be a game-changer.

Among 76 interior defenders who played at least 50 percent of their teams' snaps in 2023, Jones ranked 67th with his Pro Football Focus grade. While not definitive, this statistic is telling, especially considering his lack of splash plays over his six-year career. The truth is that this likely won't end well for the Cardinals.

Remember that Jones has only 12 sacks in his career. While he had one of his better years as a pass rusher in 2023, with 36 pressures and 4.5 sacks, he remains a liability against the run. This is concerning for a Cardinals team that ranked 27th in rush EPA and 31st in rush success rate in 2023.

Jones is a significant addition to Arizona's pass rush room and will be placed in intriguing spots to generate pressure in Gannon’s defense. However, his contract includes the fourth-highest total guaranteed money among defensive tackles signed in free agency so far. That makes this a substantial gamble.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) throws under pressure from Chicago Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones (93) during their football game Sunday, January 7, 2024, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers defeated the Bears 17-9.


The Cardinals needed help along the defensive front and made a significant investment in free agency. There's hope that these moves, particularly the signing of Jones, will help Arizona dominate the line of scrimmage moving forward. However, the pressure on Jones to perform will be immense. The high-profile nature of his signing and the substantial financial investment will place a spotlight on his every move. This heightened scrutiny can serve as both a motivator and a source of stress. If Jones thrives under this pressure, he could become a key piece in the Cardinals' defensive resurgence. However, if he struggles to meet lofty expectations, the backlash from fans and media could be significant, further compounding the challenges for both Jones and the team.

Looking Ahead

The Arizona Cardinals' decision to sign Justin Jones stands out as one of the riskiest moves of the 2024 NFL offseason. Yes, Jones possesses undeniable talent and the potential to be a game-changer. That said, his inconsistent performance and the financial implications of his contract make this a high-stakes gamble. The Cardinals are betting big on Jones' ability to stay healthy and perform at an elite level, but the margin for error is slim. As the season unfolds, all eyes will be on Jones and the Cardinals' defense, waiting to see if this bold move will pay off or become a costly mistake. The outcome of this gamble could very well define the Cardinals' fortunes in the 2024 NFL season and beyond.