Deion Jones

NFC South Rumors: Saints, Jones, Panthers

Trevor Penning is slotted to be the Saints‘ long-term Terron Armstead replacement, but a stopgap may be required ahead of that succession. The Northern Iowa alum is not a lock to open the season as New Orleans’ left tackle, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com notes. The Saints expected the Division I-FCS product to be raw coming in, and it does not appear he has seized the job for which he’s ultimately ticketed just yet. If Penning is on the bench to start the season, swingman James Hurst would be in line to get the call. The former Ravens starter was a 15-game first-stringer with the Saints last season.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Departure rumors have encircled Deion Jones for a stretch now, but the well-paid Falcons linebacker is on the shelf after undergoing shoulder surgery. Jones is set to count $20MM toward the Falcons’ cap this year — the highest figure on the rebuilding team. The Falcons should be considered unlikely to cut Jones, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes. They would be slammed with $18MM-plus in dead money, saving barely $1MM, by releasing the seventh-year veteran. Jones could potentially be an in-season trade chip, once the Falcons pay out part of his $9.6MM base salary. At just 27, the off-ball linebacker would be an upgrade for many teams. Atlanta signed ex-Dean Pees charge Rashaan Evans, has Mykal Walker returning, and the team drafted Troy Andersen in Round 2. The Arthur SmithTerry Fontenot regime appears to have a post-Jones plan in place.
  • New Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks, returning to Charlotte after a few notable stops, is not planning to have Jeremy Chinn play much linebacker, per David Newton of ESPN.com. Despite the team signing free agent safety Xavier Woods, the plan is for Chinn to stick at his listed position. The third-year defender saw extensive run on Carolina’s defensive second level as a rookie, and while Newton notes Chinn will still move around, the Woods addition will not lead to extensive Chinn linebacker burn. Having already totaled 224 tackles in two seasons, the former second-round pick has a big year in front of him. Chinn will become extension-eligible in 2023.
  • The Panthers are on the lookout for a veteran edge rusher, but the team has plans for the recently extended Frankie Luvu. The fifth-year linebacker is on a new Carolina deal because the coaching staff believes he can contribute on the edge, according to Newton. In his first Panthers season, Luvu started four games but worked mostly as a backup. Among players who saw the bulk of their snaps as off-ball linebackers, Luvu graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2-ranked pass rusher — behind only Micah Parsons — last season. Granted, this came on just 249 snaps and produced just 1.5 sacks, but the American Samoa native earned a two-year, $9MM deal to stay.
  • Panthers defensive lineman Daviyon Nixon is not expected to be full-go when training camp starts, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year-turned-Carolina fifth-rounder is still recovering from the knee injury that ended his rookie season. With Matt Ioannidis in the fold alongside Derrick Brown, Nixon is in line to be a rotational presence in his second season.

Latest On Falcons, Deion Jones

One of the Falcons’ few Super Bowl LI cornerstones still with the team, Deion Jones will be sidelined for a while. The veteran linebacker underwent shoulder surgery recently, and he will not be ready until training camp.

This operation, which Arthur Smith called a cleanup procedure (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter), further complicates Jones’ status. The only way for the Falcons to generate any kind of cap savings by parting ways with the veteran linebacker would be a post-June 1 trade. Jones’ surgery stands to hit pause on those rumors for a while.

A 2016 second-round pick, Jones has anchored Atlanta’s linebacking corps throughout his career. He has already returned five interceptions for touchdowns. Only three linebackers — Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks and Bobby Bell and longtime pro Karlos Dansby — have notched more pick-sixes (six apiece) in NFL history. The six-year starter made 137 tackles under new DC Dean Pees last year. Jones, however, has not made a Pro Bowl since 2017 and carries the highest cap number on the Falcons’ payroll — by a wide margin.

Tied to a $20MM cap figure this year, Jones has two seasons left on his contract. Thanks to two 2021 restructures, the Falcons releasing Jones after June 1 would slam them with $18MM in dead money and save them barely $1MM. The team already has $63MM in dead-money charges, much of that from the dead-money record ($40MM) on Matt Ryan‘s contract, but the regime that drafted and extended Jones is gone. The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz recently tabbed Jones as almost certain to depart Atlanta soon.

Once healthy, Jones will be worth monitoring as a trade candidate. While teams might be leery of the $9.6MM (guaranteed) and $11.9MM (nonguaranteed) salaries he is due over the next two years, the LSU product is still just 27 and has missed only one game over the past three seasons. Jones deferred $4MM of his 2021 salary to 2022; the Falcons already paid that out as a March roster bonus. A post-June 1 trade would save the Falcons more than $10MM, though they would likely collect a low-level return.

Atlanta signed ex-Titans first-rounder and Pees charge Rashaan Evans in April and drafted Troy Andersen in Round 2. Despite losing Foyesade Oluokun in free agency, the team also added Nick Kwiatkoski late in free agency and has Mykal Walker returning as well. It will be interesting to see if the Falcons hang onto Jones or if he will be another piece moved as the team rebuilds.

Falcons Restructure Deion Jones’ Deal

For the second time this year, the Falcons turned to Deion Jones‘ contract to create cap space. Atlanta completed its latest Jones restructure Thursday, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

This latest adjustment will give the Falcons an additional $2.8MM in cap space. The Falcons’ March Jones restructure generated an extra $4MM in room. Atlanta entered Thursday barely $500K under the cap, slotting in above only the Rams for space.

The Falcons have Jones locked up through 2023 on a four-year, $57MM extension — one authorized by their previous regime. The new Atlanta front office has gone to the restructure well a few times this year. Matt Ryan‘s fourth restructure — a move new GM Terry Fontenot was initially against — headlined this batch of reworkings. Atlanta created more cap space in June by dealing future Hall of Famer Julio Jones to Tennessee.

Prior to Thursday’s restructure, Jones’ cap numbers were set to balloon after this season. The standout linebacker was set to count $18.6MM against Atlanta’s 2022 cap and comprise $17.1MM of the Falcons’ cap in 2023. His 2021 cap hit checks in below the $10MM mark. Thursday’s move will push more money onto future Falcons caps.

Falcons GM Was Against Matt Ryan Restructuring

Back in March, the Falcons managed to carve out some cap space by restructuring the contract of Matt Ryan. However, it sounds like at least one member of the front office wasn’t a proponent of the move. According to Tori McElhaney of The Athletic, Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot “didn’t really want to make” the move.

Fontenot was brought in as GM in January, and the organization needed some immediate breathing room to participate in the early parts of the offseason. While the Ryan restructuring reduced the quarterback’s cap number to $14MM, it also converted $21MM of Ryan’s $23MM upcoming base salary into future signing bonuses (spread out over the duration of his contract). The means Fontenot will have to once again deal with a muddled cap sheet next offseason, which was something he was presumably looking to avoid.

According to the writer, the recently hired GM ultimately “thought his hands were tied,” and he believed the team’s only solution to opening some necessary cap space was to either restructure Ryan or cut Deion Jones. Ultimately, the organization decided to rework Ryan’s contract, the fourth time the quarterback has restructured his mega-deal. Ryan will now have cap hits north of $40MM in 2022 and 2023.

The team (temporarily) committed to Ryan when they decided to not select a quarterback during this past year’s draft. Considering the money that’s owed to Ryan over the next few years, the team will likely be stuck with the veteran. Ryan hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2018, but he’s still completed 65.6-percent of his passes while averaging 26 touchdowns vs. 12.5 sacks over the past two years. Ryan won’t have one of his favorite targets with Julio Jones out of the picture, but the team still added tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 pick to pair with 2020 second-team All-Pro Calvin Ridley.

Falcons, Deion Jones Restructure Deal

The Falcons and linebacker Deion Jones have agreed to a reworked contract, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The adjustment will give the Falcons an extra $4MM in cap space for the coming year. Meanwhile, Jones now has his 2022 base salary fully guaranteed.

The Falcons have been fairly quiet in free agency, save for their recent two-year deal with running back Mike Davis. The additional $4MM alone might not lead to a major signing, but it could allow them to build out their bench and get their rookies under contract. The Falcons’ board starts with the No. 4 overall pick – that choice alone carries a $6MM cap hit for Year One.

Jones, 27 in November, is in the midst of the four-year, $57MM extension he signed in the summer of 2019. After missing much of 2018 due to injury, Jones has bounced back with perfect attendance in each of the last two seasons. Last year, the Falcons asked Jones to bring more pressure against the pass and he delivered a career-high 4.5 sacks, plus two interceptions. He took one of those INTs to the house, giving him five career defensive touchdowns.

Jones will be supported, in part, by Barkevious Mingo. The former No. 6 overall pick agreed to join the Falcons last week on a low-cost, one-year deal.

Falcons, Deion Jones Agree To Extension

Part 2 of the Falcons’ major midsummer contracts can soon be removed from the franchise’s checklist. The Wednesday negotiations between Drew Rosenhaus and the Falcons apparently went quite well, with Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reporting (on Twitter) Deion Jones agreed to a four-year, $57MM extension.

The fourth-year linebacker will receive $34MM guaranteed, Schefter adds, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reporting (via Twitter) part of that guarantee will be an $11MM signing bonus. The $34MM figure will also include $25.8MM fully guaranteed at signing, Florio tweets. Jones will receive $35.5MM in the first three years of this re-up, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. The Falcons and Rosenhaus met today in Atlanta to finalize the deal.

This extension falls in between C.J. Mosley‘s lofty Jets pact and the field, with the $14.25MM average making Jones the league’s second-highest-paid off-ball linebacker. It comes in nearly $1MM north of Anthony Barr‘s Vikings deal, in terms of AAV. Regarding fully guaranteed money, this pact trails only Mosley’s $43MM figure and Luke Kuechly‘s $27MM amount.

Two days after the Falcons locked up Grady Jarrett through 2022, they have their middle linebacker signed through 2023. Now, the focus will shift to the team’s highest-profile player. Julio Jones and the Falcons have been working on a new deal, one that will almost certainly make the All-Pro the league’s highest-paid wide receiver, for months. Arthur Blank‘s “Falcons for life” trio is two-thirds extended, but Julio Jones will end up with the biggest contract out of this triumvirate.

Although Deion Jones missed 10 games due to injury last season, the 2016 second-round pick has anchored Atlanta’s linebacking corps since his rookie season. Pro Football Focus graded Jones as its No. 14 linebacker last season; his placement was even higher during a 2017 Pro Bowl slate. The 24-year-old ‘backer has recorded 297 tackles, eight interceptions and three pick-6s in his 37-game career.

Latest On Falcons’ Talks With Julio Jones, Deion Jones

Now that the Falcons have agreed to an extension with Grady Jarrett, negotiations with Julio Jones and Deion Jones stand to pick up. The franchise will continue to talk with its extension-seeking Joneses.

Deion Jones’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will meet with Falcons brass on Wednesday in Atlanta, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Jones and the Falcons have been discussing an extension since early March.

Although there is less clarity on the Julio Jones front, Ian Rapoport tweets the All-Pro wide receiver now becomes the Falcons’ top contract priority. However, a Deion Jones deal may beat this process to the finish line. Julio Jones and the Falcons still appear to have a ways to go before finalizing a deal.

Both Joneses reported to Falcons minicamp in June, and Julio expressed optimism he and the Falcons would have a new deal in place soon. Arthur Blank has said he wants both players, along with Jarrett, to be “Falcons for life.” Deion Jones has one season (at just more than $1MM) remaining on his rookie deal, while Julio Jones is signed through 2020 on his second Falcons contract. Julio’s third contract, whenever it is completed, stands to have a major impact on other extension-seeking wideouts.

Extension Candidate: Falcons LB Deion Jones

With so much attention being paid to a potential extension for Falcons receiver Julio Jones, it’s easy to forget about the Falcons’ other player by the same surname who is pushing for a new deal. Linebacker Deion Jones has been discussing an extension as he enters his walk year, but we haven’t heard much news regarding his situation in recent weeks. 

As a former second-round pick, Jones is slated to earn less than $1.1MM in 2019, with no club option for a fifth season. In theory, the lack of an option is a good thing for players like Jones who have outperformed their draft slot, but the Falcons still have leverage thanks to his laughably low salary for the coming year. Jones isn’t necessarily the priority either – the Falcons are likely putting a greater focus on Grady Jarrett‘s contract and the aforementioned contract of J. Jones.

Jones, who won’t celebrate his 25th birthday until November, has proven to have a nose for the ball. In three seasons, he has eight interceptions to his credit, including three pick-six plays for touchdowns. He was also a tackling machine in his first two seasons, though a broken foot suffered in Week 1 of the 2018 season kept him to a total of six games last year.

The injury undoubtedly hurt his negotiating position, though a broken foot is not as devastating as a ligament tear to the knee. Jones still has serious potential at the linebacker position with plenty of room to grow before entering his prime years.

The Falcons would obviously love to keep Jones in the fold for years to come, but the skyrocketing rate for inside linebackers may prove to be a barrier. In March, C.J. Mosley passed Luke Kuechly on a rocket ship with a five-year, $85MM deal that includes $43MM fully guaranteed. Granted, this was a free agent deal, and Mosley is more accomplished than Jones, but Jones’ camp undoubtedly has those specs in mind. Meanwhile, Seahawks star Bobby Wagner is also in the hunt for a new deal, and the market could balloon even further if he puts pen to paper before Jones.

Ultimately, we expect the Falcons to get something done with their young linebacker, but he might have to wait until the other stars are addressed.

Julio Jones, Rest Of Falcons In Camp

Led by star receiver Julio Jones, all players who did not attend Falcons OTAs arrived for the first day on minicamp, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets

That list includes the recently franchise-tagged Grady Jarrett, defensive end Vic Beasley and linebacker Deion Jones.

In addition to arriving for mandatory minicamp, Julio Jones is not worried about his contract and is sure a new deal will get done, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure writes.

“The situation will get handled. It’s just a matter of time when they’re going to do it. Mr. Blank has spoken, so what more do I need to say or talk about?” Jones said.

McClure notes that in addition to a reworked deal for the pass-catcher, the Falcons also hope to sign Jarrett and Deion Jones to extensions. In addition to Julio not worried about his deal getting done, Falcons owner Arthur Blank sounds just as confident.

“I’m not worried about getting the deals done. I’m speaking on behalf of Atlanta and Atlanta fans. [General manager] Thomas [Dimitroff] is working hard to get them done. Coach [Dan] Quinn is supportive, as well. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when,” Blank said.

Though he did arrive at the three-day minicamp, Julio will not be participating due to a foot injury. Jones is coming off his fifth consecutive 1,400-yard campaign and led the league with 1,677 receiving yards in 2018.

Latest On Falcons’ Extension Candidates

For a second straight offseason, the subject of Julio Jones‘ contract has been a key offseason Falcons talking point. But next week, the All-Pro wide receiver will be with the team when it conducts its minicamp.

Dan Quinn confirmed (via The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, on Twitter) the ninth-year receiver will show for minicamp, which begins June 11. So will fourth-year defensive end Vic Beasley. It is not yet certain if franchise-tagged defensive tackle Grady Jarrett will join them, though Quinn anticipates he will. Skipping mandatory minicamp would cost the trio nearly $90K each.

Regardless of the statuses of Jones, Jarrett and fellow extension candidate Deion Jones, the Falcons expect to re-sign all three. He did not specify a plan for Beasley, who joined the group in staying away from Falcons OTAs.

We have a salary cap. We have limits that we have to think about not only today but tomorrow, and we have to balance all that off,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “But these are three great young men that we care deeply about, both personally and professionally. They are going to be Falcons for life.

I’m not worried about getting the deals done. I’m speaking on behalf of Atlanta and Atlanta fans. Thomas [Dimitroff] is working hard to get them done. Coach Quinn is supportive as well. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when.”

A new deal for Jones has been rumored for weeks now, and it will almost certainly make the 30-year-old receiver the league’s new highest-paid player at the position. Two seasons remain on the five-year, $71.25MM extension he signed in 2015. Jarrett is tethered to a $15.2MM franchise tag. Jones would have the most to gain by signing an extension before the season. The former second-round pick’s rookie deal pays him just $1.45MM. The Falcons picked up Beasley’s fifth-year option (worth $12.8MM) last year.

The Falcons, though, are light on cap space ($6.5MM, the fifth-lowest figure at the moment), so it will take some work to fulfill Blank’s vision.