Deion Jones

Bills To Sign LB Deion Jones

The Bills are adding a former Pro Bowler to their defense. The team is signing linebacker Deion Jones, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It will be a one-year deal for the 29-year-old defender.

Jones most recently got into 13 games (three starts) with the Panthers during the 2023 campaign. He finished the season with a career-low 35 tackles while appearing in less than half of his team’s defensive snaps. However, Pro Football Focus still believes he has something left in the tank, grading the veteran 42nd among 82 qualifying linebackers.

Jones struggled during his final few seasons in Atlanta and half-season showing in Cleveland, but he was once one of the Falcons’ most dependable defenders. The former second-round pick averaged more than 100 tackles per season between 2016 and 2021, and that includes a 2018 season where he was limited to only six games and 53 stops. He earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2017 after finishing with 138 tackles and three interceptions.

With former linebackers coach Bobby Babich earning a promotion to defensive coordinator, Al Holcomb will take over the LB role. He’ll be eyeing a depth chart led by Terrel Bernard and Matt Milano, who was limited to five games last season thanks to a fractured leg. Milano’s fill-in, Tyrel Dodson, is gone, but backup Dorian Williams will still be around in 2024, and the Bills added fifth-round linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio last weekend. Jones will likely be competing with Williams and Ulofoshio for those backup reps.

Panthers Promote LB Deion Jones

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.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 9/11/23

Here are today’s practice squad transactions from around the league:

Carolina Panthers

Las Vegas Raiders

Seattle Seahawks

The veteran linebacker, Jones, lands back with the team he spent the preseason with after getting released in final roster cuts two weeks ago. The former Falcons defensive staple failed to really catch on last year after getting traded to the Browns, failing to amass over 100 tackles for only the second time in his NFL career, the first time being when he only played six games (and already had 53 tackles). While he failed to crack the 53-man roster in an impressive returning group of linebackers in Carolina, he’ll hope to work his way back onto the field from the practice squad.

Panthers Reduce Roster To 53

The Panthers cut down their roster to 53 players today, but in the process, they ruled out a key offensive lineman for at least a month:

Released:

Waived:

Placed on PUP:

Placed on IR:

Austin Corbett continues to rehab from a torn ACL and has been sitting on PUP throughout the preseason. The transaction means the starting guard can’t be activated to the active roster until Week 5, but he may need longer to get into form. NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe tweets that the team is hoping to have him back midway through the season. Rookie Chandler Zavala will likely slide into the starting lineup while Corbett is sidelined.

Eric Rowe has 100 games of experience in stints with the Eagles, Patriots, and Dolphins. He’s spent the past four seasons in Miami, starting 39 of his 63 appearances. This included a 2022 campaign where he got into 14 games (six starts), finishing with 56 tackles and a pair of sacks. The two-time Super Bowl champ joined the Panthers back in April.

Panthers To Cut LBs Deion Jones, Brandon Smith

9:21am: The Jones release has not, in fact, helped win Smith a spot on the 53-man roster. The former Matt Rhule draftee has been waived, per ESPN’s David Newton. Smith’s draft stock was boosted by his athletic traits, but they have yet to translate to production at the NFL level. The Panthers will be able to retain him via the practice squad if he goes unclaimed.

8:10am: Deion Jones did not end up with a team until the first week of training camp, and the former Falcons standout will not be part of the Panthers’ 53-man roster. Carolina is releasing the veteran linebacker, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

This move will put Jones’ career at a crossroads of sorts, as he was unable to carve out a regular role as a Browns starter following an in-season trade. Previously attached to a top-market off-ball linebacker contract with Atlanta, Jones will pass straight into free agency as a vested veteran.

Jones, 28, started 83 games for the Falcons from 2016-21 and earned a four-year, $57MM extension from the team back in 2019. The Thomas Dimitroff regime authorized that deal. GM Terry Fontenot cut bait in his second year running the Falcons, incurring substantial dead money to do so. Jones still counts on the Falcons’ payroll this year, but the Panthers did not guarantee the former second-round pick anything.

Carolina is set at the top of the LB depth chart with Shaq Thompson and Frankie Luvu each on the books for at least one more year. The team also added Kamu Grugier-Hill in free agency, and 2022 fourth-rounder Brandon Smith resides on the roster as well. The latter has faced questions about his roster security this summer, but the decision to move on from Jones certainly helps his chances of remaining with the team moving forward.

As teams sort out their 53-man rosters and practice squads in the coming days, Jones will seek out a new fit which could offer a clearer path to playing time than what he faced in Carolina. The chances of that could be slim, however, and he may be resigned to taking another one-year, low-cost deal with an interested team in the hopes or rehabbing some of his free agent value. It will be interesting to see how much of a market he generates ahead of Week 1, and his ability to carve out a role on his next team.

NFC South Notes: Saints, Panthers, Edmonds

The Saints made a key tweak to their front office Tuesday, announcing Khai Harley will move into the assistant GM role. Harley has been with the Saints for 16 years, most recently serving as the team’s VP of football administration. Mickey Loomis has credited Harley as being one of the chief architects behind the franchise’s aggressive strategy with regards to the salary cap. Omar Khan used this background to become the Steelers’ GM, and Harley rising to this post may put him on the radar for interviews.

New Orleans also Scott Kuhn as director of football administration, Zach Stuart as director of analytics and Rishi Desai as a scouting assistant. Gaining extensive experience on the analytics front, Kuhn spent 16 years with the Vikings. Stuart spent the past three years as the Jets’ analytics coordinator. Additionally, former safety Matt Giordano is now an assistant on Dennis Allen‘s staff. Giordano, 40, spent one season with the Saints (2010); the 30-game starter also played for the Colts, Packers, Raiders and Rams from 2005-13. Giordano had spent six seasons as head coach of Buchanan High School in his native Fresno, concluding that tenure after the 2021 season.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Although Payton Turner carries a first-round pedigree, he is unlikely to beat out Carl Granderson for the starting role Marcus Davenport vacated this offseason. The Saints are more likely to turn to Granderson — a former UDFA — than Turner opposite Cameron Jordan, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com notes. Granderson, 26, has stood out in training camp and has two five-plus-sack seasons over the past three years. Turner entered camp after two iffy years, and while the Saints are likely to give the 2021 first-rounder another shot, a rotational role looks to be how this will play out.
  • Jordan’s two-year, $27.5MM Saints extension is fully guaranteed, and it will also include sack incentives. Jordan can pick up an extra $500K with a 10-sack season this year, Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football tweets. The 34-year-old defensive end can add $250K by reaching $250K in 2024 and 2025. Sitting 23rd on the official sack list (115.5), Jordan has six double-digit sack slates on his resume — including a 12.5-sack showing in 2021.
  • Frank Reich is in place as the Panthers‘ play-caller to start his HC tenure, but OC Thomas Brown continues to loom as a future option for the post. The first-year Carolina HC said the long-term goal remains to make Brown the play-caller, Darin Gantt of Panthers.com tweets. This is Brown’s first OC post, but he has already booked HC interviews and received interest from other teams regarding their respective OC jobs. A former Rams assistant, Brown earning play-calling responsibilities this year would enhance his case for a top coaching job.
  • Deion Jonesone-year Panthers agreement is worth $1.17MM, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. That doubles as the veteran minimum, though Wilson adds the former Falcons mainstay will receive a $75K bonus for making the Panthers’ 53-man roster. The Falcons gave Jones a four-year, $57MM extension before the 2019 season, but the team cut bait on that deal before the 2022 trade deadline. The Browns also removed a year from Jones’ contract, and scant interest came his way this offseason. This will be a key year for the 29-year-old linebacker.
  • The Panthers included four void years in Justin Houston‘s contract, dropping his cap hit to $2.13MM, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Houston signed a fully guaranteed one-year, $6MM deal earlier this month. The contract will include sack incentives, with Wilson adding Houston will receive $500K by reaching 11 sacks and could earn another $500K by hitting 12 (Twitter link). These are classified as not likely to be earned; Houston has one 11-sack season since 2015.
  • As the Buccaneers prepare to use Rachaad White as their starting running back, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes offseason addition Chase Edmonds is locked into the third-down role. Edmonds, who received just $153K guaranteed on a one-year Bucs deal, operated as a solid pass catcher for the Cardinals but is coming off a down year. The Dolphins included him as salary filler in the Bradley Chubb trade, and the Broncos made him a cap casualty in March.

Panthers To Sign LB Deion Jones

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.

12:12pm: One of the top remaining free agent linebackers is set to meet with a potential new team. Deion Jones will visit the Panthers later today, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

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.

Giants To Meet With LB Deion Jones

The Giants already handed out the second-most lucrative deal to an off-ball linebacker in this year’s free agency, signing Bobby Okereke. They are not done looking for help at the position.

Deion Jones will meet with the team Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. A six-year Falcons starter, Jones spent last season with the Browns. Although Cleveland took on Jones’ through-2024 contract via trade, a reworking sent Jones to free agency this year.

Injuries affected New York’s secondary for most of last season, and its top pass rushers missed time as well. But Don Martindale‘s unit featured an undermanned linebacking corps throughout. Even when the unit was at full strength, it resided as one of the league’s worst linebacker groups. The Giants gave Okereke a four-year, $40MM deal — one that trailed only Tremaine Edmunds‘ at the position this offseason — to lead a rejuvenation effort.

Most of the big names at linebacker have found homes, though a considerable price drop-off occurred after Okereke. Germaine Pratt and T.J. Edwards — a Giants target who ended up with the Bears — were the only other off-ball ‘backers to sign accords worth at least $6.5MM per year. Jones should not be expected to fetch that much, despite being attached to a four-year, $57MM extension as recently as last season.

Injuries among Browns linebackers created a need for outside help, and Jones stayed healthy after beginning the season on IR. Jones started five of the 11 Browns games he played, logging a 59% defensive snap rate and adding 2.5 sacks to his 44-tackle stat line. Jones, who ranks in the top five in NFL history for pick-sixes by a linebacker (with five), added an interception. Mostly on account of his poor run-defense grade, Pro Football Focus slotted Jones outside the top 70 at the position last season.

Jones, 28, made 88 starts for the Falcons and consistently produced big numbers. He posted five 100-plus-tackle seasons in Atlanta and picked off 11 passes during his six-season run with the team. The former second-round pick underwent shoulder surgery last May and ended up on IR to start the season. While Jones did not help himself much in his contract year, the Giants will likely add at least one more linebacker to their equation — perhaps more than that — even after signing Okereke.

Browns Activate LB Deion Jones

Deion Jones is set to make his Browns debut tomorrow. According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports (on Twitter), the linebacker has been activated from injured reserve. The team has also promoted linebacker Dakota Allen and cornerback Herb Miller from the practice squad, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (on Twitter).

Jones was acquired from Atlanta earlier this month despite sitting on injured reserve. He was soon designated for return, allowing him to practice with his new squad for more than a week. The linebacker underwent shoulder surgery back in May, a move that ended up temporarily halting trade talks. While his salary was apparently a concern for some suitors, Jones and Cleveland later agreed to a reworked contract that will make the veteran a free agent at the end of the season.

The linebacker spent the first six seasons of his career in Atlanta, including a 2021 campaign where he collected 137 tackles. The Browns lost veteran linebacker starter Anthony Walker for the season in Week 3, leaving a major hole on their defense. Jacob Phillips has since found himself with a starting gig, and it’ll be interesting to see if he supplants usual starter Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with Jones in the lineup.

Allen has spent the majority of the 2022 season on Cleveland’s practice squad, although he’s been active for a pair of games. The linebacker got into 14 games with the Jaguars last season, collecting nine tackles. Miller has seen time in 11 games for Cleveland over the past two years, including two this year.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Jones, Ravens

A bit of a controversy developed in Pittsburgh this week. Mitch Trubisky and Diontae Johnson engaged in a shouting match during halftime of the Steelers-Jets contest, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, adding that this provided the impetus for Trubisky’s benching. Mike Tomlin did not confirm or deny a shouting match between the quarterback and the team’s highest-paid wideout ensued, though Johnson essentially confirmed a football-related argument took place. But The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly adds the dispute was not the deciding factor in the 16th-year coach moving to Kenny Pickett for the second half of that game. Johnson wanted more targets from Trubisky in that Week 4 game, Dulac adds, leading to the team’s original starter standing up to the fourth-year receiver.

Tomlin benched Trubisky primarily due to his underwhelming performance during the season’s first month, with Kaboly adding he had already decided to go with Pickett. Trubisky sat throughout Week 5 but played well when reinserted into Pittsburgh’s lineup following Pickett’s Week 6 concussion. Despite a bounce-back relief effort against the Buccaneers, Trubisky is set to return to the bench. Pickett cleared concussion protocol Friday and is in line to start against the Dolphins, Tomlin said. Levi Wallace and Pat Freiermuth also cleared the protocol, arming the Steelers with key starters.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • It looks likely Deion Jones will make his Browns debut Sunday. The team held off from activating the recently acquired linebacker from IR last week, giving the longtime Falcons starter more time after designating him for return. Jones is progressing fast in Joe Woods‘ defense, per linebackers coach Jason Tarver (via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, on Twitter). Tarver said Jones could be in position to wear the green dot, signifying headset communication, in the near future. The Browns, who lost Anthony Walker to a season-ending injury in Week 3, acquired the six-year Atlanta cog for merely a 2024 pick swap.
  • Cleveland will be without multiple Pro Bowlers against Baltimore, however. The Browns ruled out Wyatt Teller and Denzel Ward for their divisional matchup. Teller is battling a calf strain, while Ward will miss a second consecutive game due to a concussion he suffered in Week 5.
  • Ben Powers has operated as the Ravens‘ left guard this season, winning a training camp competition. While 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland was nominally in that battle, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes the younger Ben in this matchup did not mount a serious push at winning the job opposite Kevin Zeitler. The Ravens have been frustrated with Cleveland’s inability to practice consistently due to injuries, Zrebiec adds. Cleveland missed the first week of training camp due to a failed conditioning test and has missed the past two games due to a foot injury. The Ravens did see Cleveland return to practice Thursday. Cleveland, who started four games last season, has not played an offensive snap this year. Baltimore was holding a three-player competition for the job Powers won. The third entrant, Tyre Phillips, is now with the Giants.