Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is linebacker. The Falcons return a handful of players from last year’s squad—though the status of Deion Jones is uncertain—and also added a number of veterans and a second-round rookie in Troy Andersen.
First up, former Pro Bowler Deion Jones.
LB Deion Jones
Age: 27 (28 during 2022 season)
Contract: $20.04M cap hit in 2022, under contract through 2023
Career Production: 85 games played, 83 games started | 652 total tackles, 428 solo, 40.0 TFL, 4 FF | 8.5 sacks, 44 PD, 11 INT, 5 TD
2021 Production: 16 games played, 16 games started | 137 total tackles, 87 solo, 8.0 TFL, 1 FF, 11.0% MTR | 6 total pressures, 2.0 sacks, 6 PD, 78.6% completion rate allowed, 115.5 passer rating allowed | 34.6 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 2nd Round (52nd overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2016-present)
What will happen with Deion Jones this summer? That’s arguably the biggest question concerning the Falcons roster at this point, as Jones carries a massive $20M cap charge and doesn’t appear to be in the team’s plans at linebacker going forward. Obviously, Atlanta would love to trade Jones, but coming off a down year and offseason surgery might make that difficult. A post-June 1st cut could be on the table, but it would carry an $18.9M dead cap charge and save a meager $1M this season.
It’s really a shame that the relationship with Debo has come to this. Once a star on Atlanta’s defense and one of the most promising young linebackers in the NFL, Jones struggled in the transition to Dean Pees’ system last season. More important than the schematic difficulties, however, was Jones’ apparent lack of effort on some plays. This coaching staff would understand growing pains in the new scheme—it happened to several veterans—but they won’t tolerate a lack of “want-to”. And that’s why we might see Jones cut for very minimal cap savings in a few weeks.
I firmly believe Jones can still play at an above-average level or better. He’s a poor fit for Atlanta’s defense now, but there are a number of Quinn disciplines (and Quinn himself) who could certainly use an impactful coverage ‘backer. Returning to a familiar and advantageous system could result in a career resurgence for Jones. Unfortunately for the Falcons, teams may not be willing to part with the draft capital (and nearly $10M) necessary to secure Jones via trade.
Projection: Deion Jones is a very likely trade or cut candidate before Week 1 of the 2022 season. If he does remain on the roster, he’ll likely see reduced snaps as a sub-package defender—particularly in coverage.