The Dallas Cowboys have added players to all parts of their roster in the 2022 offseason, but there are still ways the team can improve.
In terms of the defense, an area that sticks out is linebacker. Heavy has already touched on free agency as a potential way to add to the Cowboys’ linebacker room, but Bleacher Report analyst Alex Ballentine is predicting the Cowboys will trade for a new linebacker before the league’s trade deadline.
Right now, Dallas is rolling into the season with Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox as their primary linebackers. Parsons will be shifting around the defense, Vander Esch has struggled in recent seasons, and Cox is entering his second NFL season after just seven appearances in 2021.
This is why Ballentine wrote in a May 6 story that Dallas could trade for Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones. The 27-year-old knows Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn well, and a reunion could reignite Jones’ career.
“In 2017, Jones posted a PFF grade of 87.3 and was voted to the Pro Bowl as a second-year player,” Ballentine wrote. “Fast-forward to 2021, and Quinn is now the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. Jones, meanwhile, is coming off one of his worst seasons, posting a 34.6 grade with PFF.”
Jones, at his best, is a player any NFL team would love to have. It’s just a matter of getting him in high gear again.
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Jones Stars with Falcons
When the Falcons made their run to the Super Bowl in the 2016 season, Jones was a rookie but playing like a veteran. Jones was taken by Atlanta in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, and the former LSU star immediately paid dividends.
Jones put up three interceptions in each of his first two seasons, totaling 21 passes defended and 166 solo tackles in the process. He finished third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 2016, and then was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2017.
A foot injury forced him to miss 10 games during the 2018 regular season. In terms of production, Jones hasn’t been able to replicate his first two years in the NFL since the injury.
In 2020 and 2021, Jones contributed more as a pass rusher, putting up 7.5 sacks in that time after just two in his first four years. His coverage numbers are far less impressive, allowing a 114.8 passer rating over that span. He also didn’t record an interception in 2021, the first season of his NFL career without a pick.
How a Deal Between Cowboys and Falcons Would Work
Ballentine’s trade proposal for Dallas and Atlanta is focused around the trade deadline, which is crucial to a potential deal happening. Under Jones’ current contract, Atlanta would be stuck with $23.8 million in dead money if they trade the linebacker before June 1.
If Atlanta is ready to move on from Jones, trading him after June 1 would save them that entire sum. For a team reloading their squad after the departure of longtime QB Matt Ryan, that’s a big deal.
That being said, Dallas would probably have to get creative on their end. According to Spotrac, Jones will still be due close to $10 million from the Cowboys or any team that would trade for him. Dallas has $13.4 million in cap space available at the time of writing, which is before the team has signed its draft picks to rookie contracts.
The Cowboys would need to free up money for a deal through cuts or trading, but that June 1 date means that they have time to do so.