Mentioned in trade rumors throughout the offseason, Deion Jones is currently on injured reserve. The Falcons linebacker, who underwent shoulder surgery in May, cannot return to action until at least Week 5. The Falcons may be planning ahead regarding a Jones move, however.
The team converted $8.5MM of Jones’ base salary to a signing bonus, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). This creates $6.8MM in cap space for Falcons while also dropping Jones’ 2022 base to $1.14MM.
The adjustment, which dropped Jones’ cap figure from $20MM to $13.2MM, marks the second straight September in which the Falcons’ current regime has restructured Jones’ contract. Jones remains tied to the four-year, $57MM extension he signed during the Thomas Dimitroff GM tenure.
Jones’ contract served as a previous impediment to a trade, a scenario that has been rumored for months. But this recent restructure stands to make the seventh-year defender easier to trade. The Falcons could now trade Jones and save $6.2MM. Previously, the team would barely have been able to save $1MM by dealing away its longest-tenured defender. While a Jones trade would come with a $7MM dead-money hit this year, that number is way down from where it once stood.
Atlanta added three void years to Jones’ deal, which runs through 2023. The former Pro Bowler carries an $11.99MM base salary next season. GM Terry Fontenot‘s Matt Ryan trade — which triggered an NFL-record $40MM dead-money charge this year — showed the team is willing to pay the necessary costs if a worthwhile deal emerges. The restructure, however, also would make it costlier for the Falcons to cut Jones in 2023.
Jones would need to flash some of his previous form in order for the Falcons to collect a decent asset, and the cap space added would help the team in the event no deal commences before the Nov. 1 deadline. The former second-round pick is still just 27 and has 83 starts on his resume. Jones’ five pick-sixes are also one shy of the linebacker record (shared by Karlos Dansby and Hall of Famers Bobby Bell and Derrick Brooks). It would not shock to see a linebacker-needy team make the Falcons an offer, should Jones re-emerge healthy ahead of the deadline. Prior to this season, Jones had missed just one game over the past three years. Jones registered 137 tackles in 2021; he has notched 25 tackles for loss since 2019.
The Falcons made several moves at linebacker this offseason. Former Titans first-rounder Rashaan Evans is back with DC Dean Pees, starting for his new team in Week 1. Evans started alongside third-year ‘backer Mykal Walker. The Falcons also have second-round pick Troy Andersen and veteran Nick Kwiatkoski in the fold. Jones would crowd this position group upon returning.