Falcons Find ‘Creative Way’ to Amend Star Linebacker’s Contract

Deion Jones

Tom Pennington/Getty Images Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys fumbles the ball after being hit by Deion Jones #45 of the Atlanta Falcons and Dante Fowler Jr. #56 of the Atlanta Falcons on September 20, 2020.

Add Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones to the long list of players around the NFL who have agreed to restructure or rework their contracts to provide salary cap space for their team.

On Sunday, Jones’ agent Drew Rosenhaus told Field Yates of ESPN that his client has agreed to rework his contract in a ‘creative way’ (as Yates put it), saving Atlanta $4 million on this year’s salary cap.

As for the specifics, Jones has agreed to defer $4 million of his $8.2 million base salary for the 2021 season until 2022. But that payment is now fully guaranteed and will be made as a roster bonus in March 2022. The team has also guaranteed Jones’ 2022 salary of $9.64 million, effectively ensuring that the sixth-year veteran will remain with the Falcons for at least two more years.

According to Yates, “the deal also includes the equivalent to one extra week’s worth of salary as the NFL is on the precipice of announcing the expansion of its regular season to 17 games,” with that extra Falcons game most likely to be at Jacksonville.

The Falcons can now use the added salary cap space to make additional moves in free agency—or to sign draft choices.

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Deion Jones’ Five-Year Career with the Falcons

Jones, 26, has been with the Falcons since 2016, when Atlanta made him a second-round pick (No. 52 overall) out of LSU. In his first five years with the team, he started 67 of 69 games, during which time he has recorded 515 total tackles (341 solo), with 32 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits, 11 interceptions, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He has also scored five touchdowns on turnovers. He had arguably his best season in 2017, when he was named to the Pro Bowl.

The Falcons signed him to a four-year, $57 million contract extension in July 2019 that is set to expire after the 2022 season.

Cuts and Restructures Aplenty for Falcons

The Falcons haven’t been very active in free agency this year but have signed a number of unrestricted free agents to modest deals, including: cornerback Fabian Moreau (Washington); linebacker Barkevious Mingo (Chicago); running back Mike Davis (Carolina); safety Erik Harris (Las Vegas); and linebacker Brandon Copeland (New England).

Those moves were enabled by a combination of roster cuts and reworked contracts.

For instance, earlier this month the Falcons restructured the contracts of several players, including defensive tackle Tyeler Davison and QB Matt Ryan, with the latter move freeing up $14 million and the former creating $2 million in salary cap space this season. Meanwhile, Falcons edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. agreed to a pay cut and left tackle Jake Matthews also had his contract restructured.

Meawnhile, the Falcons released offensive guard James Carpenter, saving $4 million, while also cutting loose safety Ricardo Allen and defensive end Allen Bailey, freeing up $6.25 million and $4.5 million, respectively.

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