Falcons’ Starting LB to Miss Offseason

Falcons

Getty Deion Jones No. 45 of the Atlanta Falcons participate in a drill during training camp.

Atlanta Falcons’ veteran linebacker Deion Jones is set to miss the rest of the offseason, according to head coach Arthur Smith, who told reporters on Thursday, May 26.

Instead, the former 2016 second-round pick will rehab after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Pro Football Focus’s Ari Meirov added to his report that there “have been rumblings” about Jones’  future with the team which hints at a potential divorce between the two parties as Jones carries a heavy $20 million cap hit.

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Jones’ Best Season Came in 2017

Jones was a go-getter during his 2016 rookie campaign. After beating out veteran Paul Worrilow in training camp for the starting linebacker job, Jones made his first NFL debut and start in the season opener.

The Falcons would go on to finish finished atop in the NFC South with an 11–5 record, win the division and make a Super Bowl appearance. Jones played a larger role in the Falcons’ success that season as he finish his rookie year with 108 combined tackles (75 solo), 11 pass deflections, three interceptions, and two touchdowns through 15 games and 13 starts.

Jones’ production and numbers increased the following season, which remains his best year to date. He led the team with 138 combined tackles (91 solo) and recorded ten pass deflections, three interceptions, and a sack in 16 games and starts. Jones ended up with an overall PFF grade of 89.6, which ranked him sixth amongst all linebackers in 2017 and he was named to his first and only Pro Bowl as a replacement for injured Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.

After two solid seasons, Jones’ numbers dropped in 2018. Granted, a foot injury kept him sidelined for most of the season, but in the six games he did play, he with 53 combined tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.

Despite an injury setback, the Falcons decided to lock him in and Jones signed a four-year, $57 million contract extension with the Falcons with $34 million guaranteed ahead of the 2019 season. He bounced back from his injury with 110 tackles and 1 interception for a 27-yard return touchdown. He continued to excel in 2020, ending the season with 106 tackles, a career-high 4.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and a score.

Just last season, Jones had 137 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble through 16 starts.


Will the Falcons Trade Jones?

Falcons’ insider and analyst, Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, recently wrote a column discussing why he believes an “almost-certain exit” from Atlanta is in Jones’ future in the coming weeks, but it won’t come easy.

Shultz also addresses Jones’ pay and how it doesn’t add up for what he’s producing both on and off of the field.

Here’s what Schultz had to say about a potential Jones trade on the way:

Trading Jones after June 1 would be the team’s preference. It would transfer most financial guarantees to Jones’ next team, and the dead-money hit to the Falcons would be only $5.34 million. But getting another team to take Jones’ guaranteed salary of $13.64 million (base and bonuses) won’t be easy — even for a low draft pick.

The Browns are having a similar problem trying to trade quarterback Baker Mayfield. The stance of most NFL teams in these situations is, “We know you’re stuck, so we’ll just wait until you cut the guy.”

If Jones had a leadership presence for younger players, the team could justify keeping him in 2022. But he has been anything but that.  

With another injury setback heading into 2022, the Falcons would certainly benefit more from trading him post-June 1 rather than keeping him around as they continue to re-build with limited cap space. Of course, it will take patience to find the right trade suitor but we’ve seen enough this offseason to know its not impossible.

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