The veteran linebacker might be in Atlanta for the 2022 season, after all.
Deion Jones has been in limbo. The veteran linebacker went from star on an interesting young defense to afterthought and possible trade candidate, especially after the Falcons drafted Troy Andersen and signed both Rashaan Evans and Nick Kwiatkoski. An injury further clouded the picture for Jones and landed him on the PUP list, and we’ve been waiting to find out whether he’s going to be in Atlanta or not in 2022.
We still don’t know the answer to that, but Jeff Schultz at The Athletic reports that the team has not found a trade partner yet. He adds that even if they don’t, Atlanta won’t outright cut Jones.
The Falcons have failed in attempts to this point to trade LB Deion Jones but have decided not to cut him, a source said, believing he won’t be a distraction to team and salary cap savings are minimal. The team continues to monitor Jones’ attitude and rehab from shoulder surgery
— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzATL) August 1, 2022
The best outcome for Jones if he’s not going to be a major part of the defense is for the team to find a trade partner, no matter how modest the return is, which also has the benefit of clearing cap space if the Falcons want to make a run at any impactful trades down the line. Given that Jones has rarely been mentioned in the inside linebacker competition by the coaching staff in recent months and that the team seems to have four viable options duking it out in camp for a starting job, chances are if Jones sticks he’ll be a reserve.
Again, that doesn’t seem particularly optimal for Jones, who will be spending a year of what might still be his prime on the bench. It’s not really optimal for the Falcons, either–that cap space could go elsewhere–but having a hyper-athletic linebacker available to play specialized roles or fill in when injury arises is a nice luxury. As I’ve said repeatedly this offseason, Jones is not a lost cause by any stretch of the imagination, given that he’s just 27 years old and not all that far removed from quality football.
The Falcons will likely keep pursuing a trade, because by the time Jones returns the team will likely have decided on its starters and put together a solid depth chart at inside linebacker regardless of what Jones ultimately offers the team. Whether they can work one out and get Jones out of limbo is the big question that has yet to be answered after months of speculation, but if this report is accurate they’re signaling this saga won’t end with Jones being cut.
We’re still probably weeks away from having any kind of resolution for Jones, either due to a trade or the team keeping him as part of the 53 man roster. The short-term future is cloudy but it seems unlikely that Jones will be in Atlanta beyond 2022, regardless of what happens this year.