FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Former New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in March as he entered the final year of his contract, told USA Today last week that his former club is "not known for really paying guys."
The remark sparked some discussion in New England, and Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was asked about it during his weekly pregame interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday night.
"We'll end up being pretty close to the [salary] cap this year, I'm sure. Whatever money we don't use, we roll over," Kraft told host Marc Bertrand, in defense of the team's approach. "We use every cap dollar that we can have, but there are just different strategies for how you deploy it. Chandler is a great football player and it will be fun to see him that opening day [Sept. 11]. And Chandler did wonderful things in the community here too; he's a good man."
Earlier in the interview, Kraft was asked about the Patriots' ability to keep top defensive players with the team, as Jamie Collins (unrestricted), Dont'a Hightower (unrestricted), and Malcolm Butler (restricted) headline a long list of players who are scheduled to become free agents after the season. With so many top players set to enter free agency, that was part of the thinking in trading Jones, who is also scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the season.
"Obviously, when you have great football players, given the constraints of the salary cap, you want to try to keep all of them. You keep as many as you possibly can, and in some cases you have to make difficult decisions," Kraft said on the program. "Chandler Jones is a great football player and was an important part of the Patriots for the last [four] years. But you have to look at everything and weigh the amount of capital you're going to have available and what all your choices are, and how deep your team is at certain positions, and what the value can be for somebody else, and how you can take that value and use it for your own team.
"That's a good example where we tried to do something that allowed us, looking forward, to take all the assets associated with the team and end up with the best possible scenario in terms of what you could actually have on the club."
Kraft was then asked if trading Jones was related to future moves.
"If Chandler is going to be an unrestricted free agent ... you know what, he's going to get paid on the open market -- and you look down on your roster and see who else is coming [up to free agency], and you see the type of depth you have at certain positions -- if there wasn't the salary cap, you might make different decisions," he said.
"The beauty of the salary cap is when you're competing in this league, you're not just competing by having the best players, the best coaching, and doing what's right on the field, but who can manage that scarce resource of capital to get as much talent as possible for the longest time possible. I know sometimes that leads to decisions that people don't like, and it leads to great discussion for talk radio."