With the Falcons making a flurry of moves over the past week—including some cuts and restructuring the contracts of players like Andy Levitre and Brooks Reed—the anticipation of what the team plans to do in free agency is heating up. We saw the team miss out on a potential trade for Michael Bennett, but the Falcons clearly have some sort of plan in mind with the start of legal tampering only days away.
There has been plenty of speculation about who Atlanta may be targeting, with names like Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Vinny Curry being thrown around as options on the defensive line. Others think the Falcons will target the offensive side of the ball, with guards like Justin Pugh and Andrew Norwell and tight ends like Trey Burton and Austin Seferian-Jenkins commonly mentioned.
While the team may very well be interested in those players, I have another player in mind for them. DT DaQuan Jones looks like an ideal fit for the Falcons as an affordable, mid-level free agent. Jones spent the last four seasons in Tennessee after being drafted in the fourth round by the Titans, and has started every year from 2015-2017. Below, I talk about some of the reasons why Jones is such a good fit for Atlanta’s defense and cap situation.
Jones offers position versatility and a well-rounded skillset
The 6’4, 322 lb DaQuan Jones has a lot of desirable traits for a team like the Falcons. He’s played a variety of roles for the Titans, including NT and DE in Tennessee’s 3-4 defense. The Titans primarily used Jones as a run-stuffer, where he was quite effective—he’s had 102 tackles through three seasons as a starter. However, Jones began to show flashes of pass rush potential this season, piling up 3.5 sacks from the interior in only 12 games.
His game really evolved in 2017, putting his name out there as a potentially underrated and versatile DT option. In Atlanta, Jones could play both the 1T and the 3T—taking on a very similar role to Dontari Poe in the Falcons’ defense. He’s not the ridiculous athlete that Poe is, but he can do many of the same things and provides much of the position flexibility that Quinn covets from his defensive linemen. Jones would greatly bolster the Falcons’ run defense and would provide serviceable pass rush ability as well.
The price will be reasonable
Jones has been flying under the radar in the NFL in large part because of how the Titans elected to use him. He’s done the “dirty work” on the defensive line for much of his career, playing at 1T and in a “Tyson Jackson” DE role with a focus on stuffing the run and taking up space in Tennessee’s 3-4 defense. In 2017, we saw flashes of his potential as more than just a space-eating defensive tackle, but he doesn’t have the eye-popping numbers to demand a massive deal.
DaQuan Jones should be available for a reasonable price, somewhere in the $5-6M/year range. He’s only 26 (will be 27 by the end of the 2018 season), which means Atlanta could sign him to something like a 4-year, $22M deal and secure his services until his age 30 season. That’s a very affordable number for a young, versatile DT who is just now entering his prime. Jones could provide much of the production that Dontari Poe did for ~$3-4M/year less. That savings would be worth it to a cap-tight team like Atlanta.
What do you think about the possibility of the Falcons signing DaQuan Jones? What sort of contract would you offer him in free agency? Who are some other potential options you’d consider on the defensive line?