By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — To anybody who has been following the future perils of the Patriots’ salary cap with regard to the team’s best players on defense, the Chandler Jones trade should have come as no surprise. Of the four most talented young players in need of a new contract, Jones’ position and role was certainly the least important — at least in Bill Belichick’s mind. An elite pass rusher is something to which he has simply never allocated too much of his cap space, and a more physical, multifaceted, all-around player like Jabaal Sheard ultimately seems to be a more valuable player — again, at least in the eyes of Belichick.

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And so, given that many folks saw a Jones trade coming, the reaction to the deal (at least locally) has been almost entirely positive for the Patriots.

“Trading Chandler Jones was smart move for Patriots,” reads the Boston Herald headline.

“The trade was a classic salary dump by the Patriots, who no longer owe Jones his $7.799 million salary this season and now don’t have to worry about negotiating with him next year,” said the story in The Boston Globe.

“[If Arizona got no assurances of a long-term deal with Jones], for the Cardinals to give up a second-rounder, a guard in Jonathan Cooper, and only get a one-year rental [in return], I would say that Steve Keim, the Cardinals GM, might have just gotten fleeced,” Tom Curran said over on CSNNE.

These opinions aren’t wrong. In fact, they may well turn out to be 100 percent correct. But they’re certainly optimistic.

Perhaps there is a risk involved in this trade that is being largely overlooked. The Patriots in 2016 will not be better off without Chandler Jones. He was among the sack leaders last year in the entire NFL (he finished fifth with 12.5). Each one of those sacks has the potential to change a game, to force a punt, to flip the field, to push a team out of field-goal range, to force a fumble. These plays are significant. Can they all be replaced? Maybe, but it’s no sure thing.

And though this concern may be quite tired now when you’re in Year Five of voicing it … there are only so many years left in the golden arm of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. He is coming off a tremendous season, but he is not going to play forever. The number of years when the Patriots can be considered a true Super Bowl contender every single summer are thus numbered.

Based on the way Brady looked last year, that number could be three. But it could be two … or one. While it wouldn’t be comparing apples to apples, Peyton Manning’s age 39 season was a brutal reminder of how bad things can get for a future Hall of Fame passer.

But regardless of how long Brady has left to play, we can all agree it’s not going to be a five- to seven-year period. Long-term planning has served the Patriots well for a decade-and-a-half, but as the once-in-a-generation quarterback nears the 17th tee, the dynamic is unquestionably shifting a bit. And so, if the team is getting worse in this deal — even marginally — for a season, then it’s a deal that makes it more difficult for the Patriots to win a Super Bowl in what could be a final year of being a top contender.

Now, the trade obviously brings with it a return. Jonathan Cooper is a guard who may or may not play much next season. Seemingly reviews out of Arizona are negative.

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At best he will be a good guard. At worst he will be a backup, or he will fail to make the team out of training camp. But surely, the Patriots would not have traded an elite pass rusher straight-up for a guard.

That brings us to the second portion of the return, which is a second-round pick, the 61st overall selection. Since 2000, Belichick has made 22 second-round picks. For every Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer and Shane Vereen, there are five Ras-I Dowlings, Ron Braces, Terrence Wheatleys, Tavon Wilsons, Chad Jacksons, Bethel Johnsons and Jermaine Cunninghams.

And of those 22 second-round picks, here are the ones that came at No. 60 or later: Deion Branch, Marquise Hill, Terrence Wheatley, Brandon Spikes, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jordan Richards. None of those picks were impact players in their rookie years, so it should not be assumed that the 61st pick of this year’s draft is going to help the Patriots on a level anywhere near what Jones would have.

(There is, of course, the unknown. The Patriots could package the 61st pick with their own second-rounder — No. 60 overall — to move up earlier in the second round. That could give them opportunity to draft a much better player in the 32-40 range, which changes the conversation a bit.)

SEE ALSO: Patriots’ Second-Round Roller Coaster Ride

And while yes, the Patriots did act quickly to sign Chris Long, he’s not a sure thing either. The Rams just unceremoniously kicked him to the curb, leaving him jobless in a league where the best defensive ends are making Olivier Vernon money (five years, $82.5 million, $52.5 million guaranteed). It’s a very valuable position but the Rams let him go for nothing. After averaging 8.5 sacks per year over his first six seasons, Long finished the past two seasons with one sack and three sacks, respectively. Likewise, his 37 tackles per year from 2008-2013 dropped to 12 tackles per year over the last two seasons.

Maybe he’ll turn his career around and enjoy a revival in Bill Belichick’s defense. But again, that’s an uncertainty and, therefore, a risk.

(Side note: It is quite hilarious that in a year when Belichick had his first-round pick taken away from him, he’s gone out and acquired Cooper, a No. 7 overall pick in 2013, and Long, a No. 2 overall pick in 2008. Is that a middle finger to the league? Probably not, but it’s funnier if you imagine it as such.)

The bottom line is that there’s no one player on any Patriots team who can single-handedly make or break the season. And certainly the Patriots have survived for stretches without Chandler Jones in the past. He missed six games in the middle of the Super Bowl-winning 2014 season, going 5-1 without him. He has just two sacks in nine career playoff games, and he’s never been very good against the run. The Patriots probably got a fair return for him, and by trading him a year earlier, nobody would say that they’re doomed. They’ll be all right.

It’s just that with Brady entering his age 39 season, and Belichick officially entering his mid-60s next month, the team may want to consider stacking the deck, going all in, or whatever clichéd term that might get overstated at times but does actually apply in this instance. Though they’re better off long-term when it come time to sign Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Malcolm Butler, the Patriots could have made it work this year with Jones still on board.

Shipping out a player of Jones’ caliber is without a doubt a calculated risk. To label it as a great or even good trade in the hours after it was made requires a significant amount of optimism. And that’s fine. Just don’t forget the risk.

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.