Chandler Jones is Cardinals' answer at pass-rusher -- if they can keep him long-term

TEMPE, Ariz. -- In his 17 years scouting for the Arizona Cardinals, general manager Steve Keim has learned how difficult it could be to find a top-tier pass-rusher.

They're few and far between, especially those who can have an instant impact on a defense.

"Pass-rushers don't grow on trees," Keim said Wednesday. "You have to put the resources into those guys."

Keim had to look across the country to find the Cardinals' next elite pass-rusher. And not only did the Cardinals find an outside linebacker who had 12.5 sacks last season and 30 in the last three years, they found a 26-year-old Pro Bowler who's versatile, athletic and humble.

Now that he has Chandler Jones in Arizona, the next step is making sure Jones isn't another one-year wonder for the Cardinals.

"When you're talking about a 26-year-old guy with his skill set, there's no doubt that our mindset moving forward is to have him as a long-term fixture here," Keim said.

Which means Arizona will have to pay a premium to keep Jones past the 2016 season. And by all accounts Wednesday -- and if he can produce on the field -- he appears worth it. Jones can play across the defensive line, from the defensive tackle position to defense end to the wide edge rusher. He can also drop back and cover out of the slot.

"His length, his athleticism, his ability to change direction and all those things that he has, is going to give us a lot of flexibility from a scheme standpoint," Keim said. "Again, with his pass rush ability I think most of us would agree you'd want to see him rush up field."

Jones, who was home with his mother when he was informed about the trade, said he's comfortable in any kind of scheme. But when he heard Arizona runs a 3-4 front that shifts into four down linemen during passing downs, it added to his excitement.

He's the piece Arizona's defense has been missing.

On Sunday, coach Bruce Arians said the Cardinals would build their secondary around cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu for the foreseeable future. Jones is the player the Cardinals can build their defensive front around for the next five years if they're able to keep him beyond this season. Jones says he watches a lot of sports on TV, so there's no doubt he saw how much pass-rushers like Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul commanded in the open market. He'll earn $7.799 million in 2016, but another 12-sack season could force Arizona to pay top-dollar for him next year.

But Jones said he was not looking forward. That's not his approach. He wants to stay in the present.

Yet, he was asked about his past Wednesday.

Jones was involved in a bizarre incident in January when he showed up at a Foxboro public safety building near his home, shirtless, and appeared to surrender. According to reports, police determined he had not committed a crime or violated any laws and gave him medical attention for what was reported to be synthetic marijuana. On Wednesday, Jones said he did not think the incident would continue to follow him.

"Not at all," he said. "I understand you asking that question, but it's something that I definitely moved forward with. I'm trying to prove and I have proven that I'm not that person. Like I said, it was a mistake and everyone has mistakes."

The trade to bring Jones to Arizona took Keim three days to execute. But Keim said it wasn't a reaction to other moves in free agency. If he had known the trade was available before free agency started, it's one he would've pursued then.

The last time Jones played in University of Phoenix Stadium, he won Super Bowl XLIX and was making snow angels in the confetti.

With Arizona finishing last season a game away from the Super Bowl, there'll be expectations on Jones to be the missing piece that leads Arizona to Super Bowl 51.

But Jones doesn't feel any pressure.

"Don't believe in that word pressure. You call it pressure but it's a job," Jones said. "Every player has a job to do and he brought me here to rush the passer and that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm excited to get after these quarterback and it should be fun to watch."

For years, possibly.