FEBRUARY 28: Paton confirmed he has both spoken with Jones and his agent, indicating he has had a number of talks with the free agent-to-be. But the Broncos are unlikely to tag Jones, Klis adds. This is unsurprising, given the team’s cap space and the lofty tag prices for D-linemen. Paton called Jones one of the team’s core players, but with a tag now highly unlikely, the deadline will be March 13 to keep him off the market. Paton also confirmed the Broncos want to bring back Singleton.
FEBRUARY 27: If the Broncos do not use their franchise tag on Dre’Mont Jones and are unable to reach a long-term agreement with the fifth-year defensive lineman by March 13, he would stand to be one of the top free agents available. But the Broncos will try to prevent him from hitting the market.
Long on the Broncos’ extension radar, Jones remains in that position now that Sean Payton and Vance Joseph are in place. GM George Paton will meet with Jones’ agent at the Combine this week, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes, adding the organization is prioritizing a second Jones contract.
Jones did not sound particularly enthused about a second Denver contract when asked back in November, but he changed his tune this offseason. The Ohio State product said he wants to come back. Although the Broncos drafted Jones months after firing Joseph as head coach, their new defensive coordinator runs a 3-4 scheme. Jones has lined up as a 3-4 defensive end starter over the past three seasons and has been one of the league’s steadier interior pass rushers.
A week away from the deadline to apply tags, Renck adds Broncos-Jones talks have not generated much progress (Twitter link). Jones, 26, stacks up as a fringe tag candidate but more likely can be classified as a player the Broncos want to keep but not tag. That said, the Broncos will consider it with Jones, Mike Klis of 9News tweets.
The D-end tag checks in at $19.73MM; the D-tackle tag is $18.94MM. While Jones was on pace for a career-best season in 2022, he finished with 6.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Jones did have the fifth-most pressures among interior D-linemen before his hip injury, per Pro Football Focus. He would be a key player for Joseph to build around up front, alongside D.J. Jones, whose $10MM-per-year contract runs through 2024.
The Broncos have Justin Simmons signed to a top-five safety deal, but their talented defense does not have another player among his position’s top-10 highest-paid players. Patrick Surtain II will qualify for a mega-extension, but the team will likely look to table that until 2025 — ahead of the star cornerback’s fifth-year option season. Denver will need to find a sweet spot with Jones, who would qualify for an upper-echelon interior D-line contract but likely not a top-five accord at the position. A tag represents a last-resort measure, but it would hamstring the Broncos’ free agency budget ahead of a draft in which they lack first- or second-round picks. The Broncos will likely be active in creating cap space in the coming weeks, sitting on just more than $9MM in available funds.
Denver’s other top free agent, Dalton Risner, has long been viewed as behind Jones in the team’s pecking order. The four-year guard starter is likelier to test free agency, Renck writes, but Alex Singleton could be a candidate to stay. Signed to a one-year, $1.15MM deal after the Eagles non-tendered him as a restricted free agent, Singleton broke through for a staggeringly productive season — given his low rate. The former UDFA finished with 163 tackles — including two 20-plus-tackle performances — and slotted 10th among off-ball linebackers, per PFF.
Singleton will be in line for a raise this year, but with a crowded class of off-ball ‘backers set for free agency, it will be a buyer’s market. This and Singleton going into his age-30 season will work against him and potentially make the Montana State alum a reasonable option to stay in Denver.