Stephen Jones has said it. The Dallas Cowboys are “not done” in free agency. To be clear, Jones said that in the lead-up to, and then immediately after, the 2022 NFL Draft and the Cowboys have yet to sign a veteran free agent since he made those comments. There is obviously still some time before Dallas heads west training camp, but time is running out if he plans to make good on that promise of sorts.
Speaking of time, the calendar now just about reads June which is important for NFL rosters and roster-related decisions. As we are reaching June 1st, teams can create some more of the all-coveted salary cap space and may release some veterans on bigger deals in order to do so.
One potential roster cut could wind up as a would-be target for the Dallas Cowboys.
Deion Jones could reunite with Dan Quinn if the Atlanta Falcons move on after June 1st
Sometimes June 1st cuts are fairly predictable but in other instances they can be a bit surprising.
PFF recently speculated on a few players who could be casualties now that June has arrived and one name they threw out was Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones.
LB DEION JONES, ATLANTA FALCONS
Post-June 1 cut 2022 dead cap: $18,980,784
Post-June 1 cut 2022 cap savings: $1,067,059
Post-June 1 trade 2022 dead cap: $5,340,784
Post-June 1 trade 2022 cap savings: $14,707,059
The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz recently reported the Falcons would explore the possibility of trading linebacker Deion Jones after June 1, just as they did with wide receiver Julio Jones last offseason. The Julio Jones trade obviously aged quite well, with the Tennessee Titans moving on from the future Hall of Famer after just one injury-plagued season. Plus, Atlanta drafted Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen with the second-round pick acquired in the trade — a player who is all the more important if the Falcons do move on from Deion Jones over the next few months.
This report came prior to the news that Jones underwent shoulder surgery and will be out for the offseason, which will only complicate matters further for Atlanta and will likely make it impossible to convince another team to take on his $13.64 million in guaranteed compensation for 2022. He’s coming off by far the worst season of his career, earning a 34.6 overall grade and allowing 884 yards into his coverage — the second-highest among linebackers in 2021.
The dead cap number is so high because Atlanta guaranteed Jones’ $9.64 million salary for 2022 when he agreed to a salary deferral in the 2021 offseason to clear cap room. The snowball effect of this poor decision just continues to delay the team’s rebuild. If the Falcons do cut Jones, they will go over $80 million in total dead cap for 2022, which represents about 40% of the total 2022 salary cap and would set an NFL record.
As you can see the Falcons are in a bit of a mess, but the situation with Deion Jones might be one that they want to move on from in the name of moving on. We have certainly seen different NFL teams move on for that simplistic of a reason before.
While no one is suggesting that Jones could come in and be a huge difference-maker for the Cowboys, his history with current defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is obvious. What’s more is that Dallas didn’t exactly address the linebacker spot in serious fashion over the offseason:
- Re-signed both Leighton Vander Esch and Luke Gifford
- Drafted Damone Clark and Devin Harper
- Did not sign Bobby Wagner
The last bullet point is said sort of tongue-in-cheek, but it bears repeating that the Cowboys did not pursue someone with a Dan Quinn connection who was on the market. Deion Jones would hardly fetch what the Los Angeles Rams paid to Bobby Wagner so perhaps Dallas would be more open to a lower price tag, but the reality is that they still need some depth at the position at the moment.
Establishing depth at linebacker helps the flexibility of Micah Parsons to roam up front and rush the passer. At present time the Cowboys would be forced to rely on Leighton Vander Esch staying healthy for the entire season and while that was the case last year the likelihood of it repeating isn’t stable enough to bank on.
Perhaps the Cowboys have been waiting for June to hit in order to become shoppers once again. Prices are about to drop and that is usually when they like to spend if they choose to do so.