Almost every major contract the Falcons were carrying into 2022 was addressed in some way. Matt Ryan was dealt, Calvin Ridley is suspended, and Jake Matthews and Grady Jarrett both received extensions. That left—and still leaves—Deion Jones.
As of today, Atlanta can trade Jones and realize significant cap savings. I’ve argued that the team might bet on Jones rebounding in year two under Dean Pees, but all their moves this offseason suggested a different route. Given that the Falcons couldn’t free up space without waiting to make a trade—and given that doing so gives them $14.7 million in cap space right now and clears Jones’ contract off the books for 2022—this is the time to start really watching for a potential move.
A trade seems like it was the team’s preferred plan—they didn’t sign two starting-caliber inside linebackers and draft a promising one because they were totally sold on going into the year with Jones as a 2022 or long-term starter—but a reported shoulder procedure that will cause him to miss the entire offseason program will complicate that. It was already going to be difficult to get value for Jones coming off the worst season of his career, especially with a weighty contract. If he’s going to be ramping up at the start of the season owing to missed time, it would presumably make getting a trade done even tougher. The Falcons would need to be motivated to move him for basically nothing in the interest of cap relief.
Maybe that’s what will matter, but the Falcons don’t need the cap space this season unless they have a high-profile late summer target in mind. If they think Jones can bounce back under Dean Pees in 2022, having him rebuild his value for a midseason or 2023 offseason trade might be the wise play. If he’s just not in their plans this year at all, it may come down to how long they’re willing to wait for a worthwhile offer to materialize. That could be months at this point.
Many of us, myself included, thought this date would offer some clarity around Jones’ future with the Falcons. This is the point at which the Falcons can move Jones and recoup cap space, so perhaps we’ll see them jump on the first decent deal they get. Either way, it seems like the conclusion of this particular saga may still be months away.