Falcons player with the most to prove according to PFF

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The Falcons have several players that need bounce-back 2022 campaigns. Kaleb McGary has a lot to prove in a contract year. The former first-round pick had his fifth-year option declined and hasn’t lived up to his draft status. Still, there’s a Falcon with even more to prove — Deion Jones, who PFF believes has the most to prove.

Here’s what Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus had to say about Jones, “Jones had a rough 2021 campaign in Dean Pees’ defense, earning just a 34.6 grade. The Falcons reportedly couldn’t find a trade partner for him, and a release would save Atlanta only $1 million in cap space. Jones would be much easier to move on from next offseason, so he must convince the Falcons to want him around in 2023 this season.”

Rumors suggest Jones has been on the trade block for much of the offseason. He’s set to count north of $20 million against Atlanta’s cap in 2022, which is the highest figure among linebackers. Jeff Schultz of The Athletic recently reported the team has failed in their attempts to trade Jones but will not cut him. The belief is the former LSU Tiger won’t be a distraction to the team, given the financial incentives to cut him don’t make sense.

According to OverTheCap, cutting him would create nearly $19 million in dead money with a savings of $1.07 million this season, but the advantage would be him being off the books next season. The Falcons would have cap savings in 2023 of $13.1 million and dead money of $5.3 million. If they did indeed part ways with Jones in this fashion, Atlanta would have a record-breaking $82 million in dead cap, which is 40% of the total cap.

Obviously, that isn’t the ideal scenario. That is a ton more dead money for a team that is already setting records in that sense. If it were the Falcons’ preference, they’d trade him with a June 1st designation. The dead cap figure would only be $5.34 million in 2022 and 2023, with savings of $14.7 million and $13.1 million, respectively.

Jones is still on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as he recovers from the shoulder surgery he underwent earlier this offseason. Because of his status on the PUP list, the Falcons cannot trade him until he’s activated. So, if the front office can find a suitor to take on Jones and his over-priced contract, the deal wouldn’t be official until he’s healthy.

Honestly, because the Falcons will finish among the bottom-third of the league, Jones being on the roster isn’t making much of a difference. The salary cap relief is enticing, but the organization wouldn’t really be able to act on those savings until next offseason’s free agency period. I’d wager Jones stays on the roster in 2022 unless he’s detrimental to the team’s chemistry, but Terry Fontenot will look to get his contract off the books by the start of the 2023 league year.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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