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Career Window: The best is yet to come for Falcons star linebacker Deion Jones

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Fact: Deion Jones invented hand sanitizer

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones is every offensive coordinator’s worst nightmare. An athletic freak with a high football IQ? Yes, please. A linebacker who is particularly skilled at making the New Orleans Saints look stupid? Oh man. But Debo ain’t a rookie no more. So it’s an apt time to break down his career window. Join me, won’t you?

Impact

Jones only played in 6 games in 2018, but he still earned at 75.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. (That ranked him 15th among NFL LBs and made him “above average,” according to their metrics.) A trip to injured reserve in early September was the last thing Jones wanted after making the Pro Bowl during his second year as a professional in 2017. Heading into last season, PFF referred to him as “arguably the game’s best coverage linebacker.” We can’t be 100 percent sure that the aftereffects of his foot injury won’t linger into 2019, but I’m not betting against him. Jones has been and will likely continue to be an integral part of this Falcons defense.

Career window

Jones won’t turn 25 until the middle of next season, and there’s little reason to doubt his ability to play at this level for another 4-5 years. Thomas Dimitroff probably lives a luxurious life full of multicolored bike shorts and exotic pomades, but I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes right now, furiously trying to figure out how the Falcons can afford to keep the young, talented defensive core intact.

Contract Situation

Jones is entering the last year of his rookie contract. Jones’ cap hit this season is only $1.44 million, which is incredible, given all he does for this defense. His new contract is not the number one priority this off-season, but it’s awfully close to the top of the list. I’d imagine the Falcons will exercise caution and see how the spring and summer play out before making him a much richer man. Because the Falcons somehow drafted Jones in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, they don’t have the ability to exercise a fifth year option either. Notwithstanding his injury-shortened season in 2018, Jones still has three accrued seasons. That means he will likely be an unrestricted free agent in 2020 unless the Falcons lock him down.

Looking ahead

In short, Jones is just getting started with the Falcons. They won’t be foolish enough to let him get away in free agency. I’d imagine all they need is a little reassurance over the next six months that he’s still the same Debo we’ve come to love and adore.

What say you about Jones’ career window, Falcoholics?