The Falcons are in the midst of a log-jam for the final spot in the NFC playoffs, but there are still facets of the front office tasked with thinking about the future. Whether that be free agents, draft prospects, or self-scouting, there are always people trying to improve the roster behind the scenes. Those individuals are assessing where the Falcons sit at a particular position while determining if and how they can upgrade said position. One of those areas is off-ball linebacker.
Foyesade Oluokun is set to hit free agency this offseason; the Falcons could potentially bring him back, given Foye is the superior linebacker to Deion Jones at this point. Still, with so much allocated to Jones already, it is unlikely Atlanta will bring Oluokun back on a new contract. With Mykal Walker behind him, it should be easier to soften the blow if he walks. He’s not on the same level as Oluokun, but Walker seems capable of ascending to that level. He notched a pick-six against the Panthers on Sunday, which should encourage the Falcons about his future.
Ideally, the Falcons would bring Foye back with the funds from a potential cap-saving trade involving Deion Jones. It has been quite a while since we saw Debo’s highest highs. He’s missed tackles, gives up a ton of yards and receptions in coverage without the usual game-changing plays he used to make. Jones has played decent, but not for the amount of money he’s getting paid.
Outside of the Miami game, in which he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week, Jones has been disappointing. He ended the day against the Dolphins with 15 tackles, a sack and three tackles for a loss. But quite honestly, he wasn’t great in that one either. He missed a handful of tackles and allowed eight catches.
Against the Jets, the poor play continued. He did lead the team with five tackles, but he missed several open-field tackles and had minimal impact in coverage. Then later, he played one of his worst games in recent memory against the Cowboys. He was abjectly abysmal. The loss shouldn’t be pinned on him, but the heart of the defense must bear some responsibility.
More recently, Jones’ decline continued against the Buccaneers. He was nowhere to be found on the Bucs’ first couple of scoring drives — beat in different capacities by tight ends and running backs alike. And against the Panthers this past Sunday, he was a big part of Cam Newton‘s rushing touchdown to begin the game. Long story short, the Falcons could start 2022 without Jones, especially considering his salary next season.
His $20,047,843 cap hit in 2022 is the fourth-highest on the team, and trading him could save the Falcons $9,366,274 against the 2022 cap. Jones is an extremely talented player, but I think he needs a change of scenery. He seems disinterested or dissociated from the Falcons right now, and Arthur Smith needs everyone to buy in if he’s to make the most out of the roster. Trading him could net precious draft capital while allowing Terry Fontenot to decide if he wants to bring Foye back or not. As PFF’s 67th ranked linebacker, Jones simply hasn’t been good enough for his price tag.
Whether his replacement comes from the depth chart, the draft, or free agency, the Falcons can get better play for cheaper.