As we roll through training camp and preseason, it’ll be worth highlighting some of the undrafted 2017 free agents vying for roster spots. First up, defensive end J’Terius Jones.
J’Terius Jones just so happens to play positions the Falcons appear to be set at. He’s played a little bit of defensive end and two linebacker spots in camp, looking pretty good while doing so, but the Falcons seem stacked at end and have solid veteran options at linebacker for the first time in a while.
Yet Jones remains worth watching, both because of his present ability and Atlanta’s future needs. While playing for Miami of Ohio in college, he put together a strong career that saw him sack the quarterback 22 times in three seasons and show a versatile streak that got him a call from Dan Quinn after the draft. He’s a little light for defensive end, but so was Vic Beasley, and he’s turned out just fine to this point.
While I’m not making a sincere comparison between Jones and Beasley, I am suggesting that Jones might manage to hang around as a practice squad player after the cuts roll in. I’m also suggesting the Falcons might be wise to do exactly like that if Jones continues to look like a potentially effective, versatile defender.
That’s largely because of the reality of the roster at the moment. Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw, LaRoy Reynolds, and Kemal Ishmael will all be free agents heading in 2018, while Brooks Reed’s contract makes him a potential cut in the offseason, as well. The Falcons will draft and sign players to replace those guys if they don’t bring them back, of course, but players like Jones can handle multiple spots, come extremely cheap, and have some upside. The team’s going to need plenty of those players to fill out the back end of the roster going forward.
If Jones hangs around—and he’s off to a good start—we’ll take a closer look at him later on this offseason. For now, watch and see if he can battle his way into the roster conversation at a crowded position, and perhaps into a real role a year from now.