Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones was added to the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Thursday stemming from a shoulder procedure he had done in the offseason.
In past years, the PUP list signaled a long-term and possibly season-ending injury for the player, but the rules have changed in recent times. A player added to the PUP list during training camp can be brought back at any time.
The deadline for making a decision on the player is August 23rd, at that point, the player would need to miss at least four games before returning.
Adding Jones to the PUP list now lets the Falcons bring in a player to camp in his spot as he’s not taking up a place on the active roster.
Jones is in a precarious position with the Falcons and Falcons’ fans alike. He underperformed last season and was overpaid. He currently occupies the top spot on the Falcons salary cap list according to Spotrac, and his cap hit is the highest in the NFL for inside linebackers at $20 million.
There was talk of trying to find a trade partner for Jones in the offseason, but his shoulder surgery complicated those talks, and it makes little financial sense to move Jones this season.
If the Falcons were to trade Jones, they’d get $14.7 million in salary cap relief, but that’s assuming the other team picked up his entire salary and roster bonus… they won’t.
The Falcons would have to pick up a significant chunk of Jones’s 2022 compensation ($14.7 million) which would be added to the dead cap hit of $5.3 million because of his pro-rated signing bonus.
Worse, they’d have the same problem in 2023.
Assume the Falcons trade partner agrees to pick up $5 million of Jones’ contract in 2023, the Falcons would get that money back for the salary cap while incurring roughly $15 million dead cap hits in 2022 and 2023?
That’s similar to what they did with Julio Jones who counts $15 million against the Falcons cap this year.
A declining linebacker with a huge contract sitting on the PUP list isn’t exactly a good trade option.
Cutting Jones this season is an even worse option, because the Falcons wouldn’t even get a portion of his salary paid by the other team.
The Falcons signaled a full rebuild when they dealt Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts and elected to eat $40.5 million in dead cap space. If they wait a year, Jones’ dead cap number drops from $24.9 million to $5.3 million in 2023.
If they wait until after June 1st 2023 to move him, the Falcons could spread that dead cap hit across two season.
Atlanta has a record $63.2 million in dead cap space in 2022. That’s 30% of the Falcons total salary cap going to players who are no longer with the team. That number is sitting at $3,000, yes, three-thousand dollars in 2023.
General manager Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have set the team up to come out swinging in free agency in 2023. Cutting or trading Deion Jones this season runs counter to everything they have done to this point to begin their rebuild in earnest next year.