There will be new deals coming for members of the 2021 San Francisco 49ers in less than 20 days, when free agency officially kicks off for the 2022 cycle.
Those deals include who could resign with the ‘Niners. Others involve who could become a new addition elsewhere and take what they learned and developed in the Bay Area with them.
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Defensive tackle and 27-year-old D.J. Jones is one of those 49ers who could be in for a new deal with the team he provided an interior presence for, or could strike it rich elsewhere.
“San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle D.J. Jones is a glue and effort guy every front seven needs,” wrote Adam H. Beasley of the Pro Football Network on Friday, February 25. Pro Football Network also has Jones as the No. 1 interior defender available for the 2022 free agent class.
Is there a chance the 49ers still holds a shot to keep Jones? The downside is this: Jones’ name has been linked two AFC teams as legit possibilities for the 6-foot, 305-pounder who put together career-best totals in the tackles department.
Jones to ‘The Land’ a Possibility
Beasley acknowledges that Jones isn’t exactly a household name in the league.
However “there are very few people alive with more strength at the point of attack. He would improve any run defense he joins. But he isn’t just some mountain in the middle. Jones can move and make plays, as evidenced by 17 tackles for loss in the last two seasons.”
One of those stops for a loss came in the playoffs:
Here’s another example of his three-way combo of strength, power and tenacity:
Niners Nation writer Jordan Elliot is a believer that Jones is a top five name on the S.F. roster.
But here’s where the Browns come in. Dalton Miller of PFN writes that the Browns could lose two interior defenders come March 16 — signaling that Cleveland could make a run at Jones.
“Jones was far too underrated throughout the 2021 season. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead get the recognition, but Jones was a massive reason for San Francisco’s success against the run and pass, particularly in the playoffs.
Malik McDowell and Malik Jackson played a lot of snaps on the defensive interior for Cleveland last season. However, both are free agents, and they could use an upgrade on the interior anyway.
That is where Jones steps in. Cleveland needs bodies on the interior, and as a primarily run-stopping defensive tackle, Jones won’t break the bank.”
The Browns are one team to watch. Which is the other?
Jones inside ‘The Death Star’
The other potential landing spot? In front of the “black hole” and in Sin City inside the “Death Star:” The Las Vegas Raiders.
Maurice Moton of Sportsnaut delivered his list of 10 best free agent targets for the Raiders on Friday and plugged Jones at No. 10 overall. Moton believes Jones is a prime fit for new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Here’s what else Moton wrote:
“After two seasons in mostly a reserve role, D.J. Jones carved out a spot with the San Francisco 49ers’ starting unit over the past three years.
In 2021, Jones played through his first full season, logging career highs in tackles (56) and tackles for loss (10). At 27 years old, he’s still in his prime and capable of more growth with an expanded workload.
Graham needs big bodies on the interior of his defensive line. He could use a stout run defender in Jones, who’s a stocky 6-foot, 305-pounds in the middle.”
Those two AFC teams are arguably the best landing spots for Jones if the 49ers don’t keep him. However, PFN believes that
“A three-year, $24 million deal is entirely reasonable” for the ‘Niners to work with. But, “the 49ers will have to free up money to do any business, including re-signing Jones. As of February 24, they were $3 million over the cap.”