2:28pm: Jones’ visit has produced an agreement. He will sign a one-year deal with the Panthers, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Jones will return to the NFC South while attempting to remain healthy and boost his free agent value ahead of next offseason.
Jones is quite familiar with the NFC South, having spent the first six-plus years of his career in Atlanta. He showcased his playmaking skills early in his career, earning his lone Pro Bowl nod in 2017 and remaining productive through most of his Falcons tenure. 2022 was a year in which the team looked to move on from many of its largest financial commitments, though, and an injured Jones was dealt to the Browns in October.
The 28-year-old agreed to remove the final year of his contract upon arrival in Cleveland, making his brief Browns stint an audition ahead of free agency. Jones joined a team which suffered numerous season-ending injuries at the LB spot, but he still saw the field for only 59% of defensive snaps – by far the lowest total of his career. He racked up 44 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception during 11 games in Cleveland.
To date, the only team other than the Panthers known to have hosted Jones was the Giants, having done so in April. The former second-rounder remains unsigned well into training camp, but he could serve in at least a rotational capacity in his next home while attempting to rebuild his value. Carolina could stand to add depth at the second level.
The Panthers have Shaq Thompson – who re-did his deal this offseason to keep him on the books through 2024 – and Frankie Luvu at the top of their LB depth chart. The latter is entering a contract year, and the team is lacking experienced depth options aside from Kamu Grugier-Hill. Jones, who has eclipsed 100 tackles five times in his career, could add a proven playmaker to the mix.
With more than $20.5MM in cap space, Carolina is in better financial shape than most teams with respect to adding free agents. Some of that total could be aimed at acquiring an edge rusher, something the team was connected to earlier in the offseason. The nature of Jones’ visit will influence the Panthers’ interest as he seeks a deal ahead of the 2023 campaign.