ESPN polled over 50 NFL executives, coaches, players and scouts to compile a list of the top players at each position. The Atlanta Falcons Deion Jones made the list of inside linebackers as an honorable mention.
It’s a fall for Jones who struggles last season to make impact plays in his first year in Dean Pees’ 3-4 defense. He still managed 137 tackles, the second highest total of his career.
“Once a top-10 fixture, Jones appears to be on the trading block after six seasons in Atlanta,” wrote Jeremy Fowler on ESPN. “He is rehabbing offseason shoulder surgery. ‘Those undersized guys, when they get hurt, the wall hits you quicker,’ an AFC scout told Fowler. ‘Still above average as a cover guy. Not dominant like he was those first few years.'”
Former Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun also made the list as an honorable mention. Oluokun led the NFL in tackles last season in Atlanta and got a three-year $45 million contract from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Grady Jarrett was voted the ninth-best defensive tackle in the poll conducted by ESPN.
Jones is still a serviceable linebacker even if he’s undersized in Pees’ scheme, but like the big criticism of Matt Ryan, Jones’ contract is a hindrance to the Falcons. Jones has the highest salary cap hit ($20 million) on the active roster (Ryan’s dead cap number is still double Jones), and his dead cap number $24 million.
Jones has the highest salary cap hit of any inside linebacker in the NFL… another failed Thomas Dimitroff contract.
Should the Falcons find a trade partner for Jones AND they take on his entire salary, the Falcons would take a $12 million cap hit in 2022 and 2023, similar to the impact of trading Julio Jones. Jones still counts $15.5 million against Atlanta’s cap this season.
Deion Jones’ dead cap number drops to just $5.3 million next season. The Falcons would be better off if they were able to keep Jones on the roster this year before making a move next season.
He’s still a good player and is recognized as such by his peers in the NFL… but that contract…