To say that Deion Jones had a down year with the Atlanta Falcons in 2021 under the new regime would be putting it mildly. To many a Falcons fan (and to some media members), the once great sideline-to-sideline linebacker was seen as someone who “gave up” on certain plays, or did not necessarily give it his all.
Add in the fact that during the year, now-Jaguars linebacker Foye Oluokun was given the “green dot” helmet (an indication of who calls plays on defense), and the season just kept getting worse for Debo, who still has a lot of heart and can provide a nifty blitz on occasion.
Currently, with the Falcons starting training camp, there are multiple rumors surrounding the 27-year-old, most notably if the Falcons will add to their already record dead cap number by trading a once-focal piece of the middle of the defense.
While Deion Jones is still on the PUP list, chances are he could see a resurgence in Dean Pees’ defense in his second year.
Now, at first glance of that header, you’re probably thinking “Deion Jones is washed. Atlanta needs to trade him immediately and get rid of him”, or something along that line. While that’s perfectly understandable, let’s look right now at what the current state of the defense is:
- A defensive line that is porous at best to where individual players got more sacks last year
- A linebacker core that signed former Bulldogs and drafted some good talent
- A secondary group that some claim could be the best in the league
However, while Jones currently started training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start camp as the result of a shoulder injury, Jones was one of the FIRST (not last) early arrivals to the team headquarters in Flowery Branch.
A player who’d either want out for contractual reasons or truly wasn’t healthy to play wouldn’t even bother returning until they’re 100%. Yet Jones showed up earlier than veterans were supposed to, and was even putting in the work to get healthy? Says a lot about that “lack of work ethic”, doesn’t it?
Then, let’s add in what was previously mentioned: the salary cap. Right now, if the season were to start today, Deion would count for 9.6% against it ($20.8 million), which makes him the most expensive player on the roster. While a post-June 1 trade is still on the ledger for Debo, that would incur a $19 million dead cap, pushing the aforementioned record cap to well over $80 million.
While that’s good for the future (namely 2023), and while it’s smarter to look towards the future, Deion might actually do better for us than elsewhere. He’s never been a player who’s labeled a “diva”, and while some plays definitely could’ve made this a wise decision, why add more dead cap money and more ridicule to part ways with a third-round talent who’s still got a lot more to give?
Finally, let’s look at Dean Pees, the mastermind of this defense. As coordinator, he went on record to state that last year, the Falcons only ran 60% of his playbook, and this year, it’s all gas on everything that the mind has. Furthermore, his previous work with Bill Belichick and a stint in Baltimore proves he knows what he’s doing on that side of the ball.
Even more helpful to his stints? He had some of the smartest individuals at linebacker during his two Super Bowl runs with both teams. Ever heard of Willie McGinest? Tedy Bruschi? Courtney Upshaw? Terrell Suggs? Ray Lewis? Those are just some Hall of Fame linebackers that were molded by Pees, and while some were already great in their own right (namely Lewis), getting more from that unit paid dividends over the middle of the field.
Folks, while it’s easy to go after Debo because it’s “news” or “opinionated”, it’s better to see what he can do with the full playbook. Chances are, now that he’s most likely going to get the defensive calls if he’s healthy to come Week One, he’s going to turn some heads from all the doubters.