With Shaq Thompson out of the mix after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured fibula, the Panthers will bring up one of the league’s most experienced linebackers. After joining Carolina’s practice squad, Deion Jones is now on the team’s 53-man roster.
A six-year Falcons starter, Jones wound up with the Browns via trade last year. He caught on with the Panthers this summer, and while he did not make the squad out of the preseason, the Thompson injury has changed the equation for Frank Reich‘s team. To fill Jones’ spot on the practice squad, the Panthers added quarterback Jake Luton. The former Jaguars QB went to camp with the Panthers as well.
The Panthers plugged Kamu Grugier-Hill into their lineup after Thompson was carted to the locker room Monday night. It will be interesting to see if Jones can carve out a steady role, given his experience. The former Atlanta standout and pick-six maven has made 88 starts; five of those came with the Browns last season.
Jones’ stock has undeniably dipped since he signed a big-ticket Falcons extension back in 2019, with The Athletic’s Joe Person noting the Panthers were not especially high on him during training camp (subscription required). The team then released Jones, 28, before circling back via a practice squad invite. Grugier-Hill, 29, has made 37 career starts; the Panthers are his sixth team. But the well-traveled vet fared well replacing Thompson on Monday night, recording a sack, a tackle for loss and six total stops in Carolina’s loss to New Orleans.
The team has made a number of changes at linebacker in recent years, though losing Thompson for a season will require the franchise’s biggest adjustment at the position since Luke Kuechly‘s early retirement. The Panthers still have hybrid player Frankie Luvu at the position. Their other two active-roster LBs — Chandler Wooten, Claudin Cherelus — do not bring much experience. The Panthers added Wooten (11 career games) off the Cardinals’ practice squad last year and claimed Cherelus (one career game) off waivers from the Jets last month.
Jones racked up 44 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception during 11 games in Cleveland, doing so after agreeing to remove the 2023 season from his Falcons-constructed contract. The move made Jones a free agent, and while interest came his way, no notable offers emerged. He signed a one-year, $1.17MM contract with the Panthers on July 31. The former Super Bowl starter has five 100-tackle seasons, racking up 46 tackles for loss and 11 sacks over the course of his career. Jones has also run back five of his 12 career INTs for scores; the five pick-sixes rank fourth all time among linebackers.