Saturday, August 6, 2022

Falcons plan to remain Super Bowl veterans despite cap hit

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The Atlanta Falcons have been working hard to find some relief from the crippling salary cap situation this offseason. Trading quarterback Matt Ryan and his historic dead-cap money to the Indianapolis Colts helped, but there are other veterans on the list who represent hefty hits against this year’s finances.

It was widely expected that a high-ranking player who, like Ryan, played for the Falcons in Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots would be traded or cut. So it comes as a surprise, a Falcons insider has reported that the team now intends to keep the six-year-old pro, despite his expense and the many steps taken to overhaul staff at his position.

The Falcons trust this stopgap player, and his attitude will be “not distracting” this season.

Deion Jones has spent the past few months being the subject of trade rumours. He’s also been touted as a likely Cap victim, but Jeff Schultz from the athlete reports that Jones is going nowhere:

It’s a surprising update about a player whose days were numbered in Atlanta. Jones was struggling with a shoulder injury after a difficult season as he transitioned to the 3-4 defense favored by coordinator Dean Pees. Recovering from surgery put Jones on the PUP list to start training camp, per ESPN’s Michael Rothstein.

These problems are compounded by Jones’ 2022 cap, a figure estimated by at $20,018,431. That number is a potential drain on general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith’s continued efforts to rebuild the roster.

Trade rumors had linked Jones to the Dallas Cowboys by Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, who noted that each trade partner “would have to be willing to take some of the $24.9 million in dead money remaining on their contract.”

That financial strain is likely why the Falcons haven’t found a new home for a former Pro Bowler who still made 137 tackles and abandoned six passes last season. If there are no takers, the Falcons are right to keep Jones in the herd.

The problem how Schultz detailedis that the Falcons won’t make any significant savings from the release of Jones this offseason, although the 27-year-old’s future is far from certain:

If, as Schultz pointed out, things changed with Jones, it would likely be due to his inability to get on the field this season. There are simply too many new options ahead of him.

Things have changed at the inside linebacker, changing enough to allow Jones to look inside from the outside in 2022. Fontenot was busy refilling the position during both free agency and the draft.

The veteran market produced former first-round pick Rashaan Evans, who played two seasons for Pees while the latter was defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Evans’ free agent colleague Nick Kwiatkoski is also familiar with this regime. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2016 when Ryan Pace was general manager. Pace now works in Fontenot’s front office.

Both Kwiatkoski and Evans are bulkier than the 227-pound Jones and better suited to the physical demands of the 3-4. It’s a similar story with second-round pick Troy Andersen, a 6’3″ 243-pounder.

There’s also the presence of Mykal Walker, who played alongside Evans with the starters early in camp, per the athleteis Josh Kendall. Jones suddenly finds himself a forgotten man in a five-deep rotation.

While safe for now, Jones still looks like a prime candidate to trade before the November 1 deadline.

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