After getting one of their top defensive players signed to a new contract, the Atlanta Falcons have added another before the beginning of the 2019 season.
On Wednesday, the Falcons signed starting middle linebacker Deion Jones to a four year, $57 million contract extension, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Jones will receive a guarantee from the team worth $34 million, and an average annual salary of $14.25 million, according to the report.
Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Drew Rosenhaus was in Atlanta to meet with the Falcons about a new contract for Jones.
Two days earlier, the Falcons signed starting defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to a reported four year, $68 million contract after originally designating him with a franchise tag.
Jones’ presence in the middle of the Falcons’ defense for the past two-plus seasons has been pivotal to the team’s improvement on that side of the ball and has been directly linked to the Falcons’ recent success in getting to the postseason.
Jones was scheduled to make $1,069,860 to play in the 2019 season, and the team was hoping to get relatively favorable terms for him before the marketplace for linebackers rises too high.
A second round pick out of LSU by the Falcons in 2016, Jones led the team in overall tackles in each of his two full seasons, but was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury in Week 1 this past season, a development that kept him off the field for 10 games and proved costly for their defense.
Without Jones in the lineup, opposing offenses found it increasingly easy to target the middle of the field, getting consistent yardage with a battery of medium yard passing plays that found Atlanta ultimately ranked second worst in the NFL on third down, allowing teams to move the chains 48.7 percent of the time. Only the Bengals were more generous.
Watching his team suffer without him for 10 weeks, Jones wanted to get back on the field as soon as he could, but was hamstrung by current league rules.
The NFL mandates that a player must spend at least eight weeks on injured reserve before returning, but Jones was looking to come back early and get back into some kind of rhythm.
“He had that kind of passion to say, ‘I just want to play, I want to go be with the guys,’” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said of the player.
“Those are the types of moments you find out a lot about somebody. When it got really hard, he wanted back in. That told us a lot about who he is.”
Nine weeks later, Jones officially came off the Falcons’ injured reserve, but medical advisers declined to recommend he return to the field, and the team made him inactive for two weeks.
Jones finally returned in time for Atlanta’s Dec. 2 home game against Baltimore, recording a career high 15 single game tackles and sacking Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
In all, Jones played 384 snaps on defense, 35 percent of the Falcons’ total for the year, including every down of their Dec. 9 loss at Green Bay, finishing the season with 53 tackles and two interceptions, including a 41 yard return touchdown in a 40-14 victory over Arizona in Week 15.
The New Orleans native has played particularly well against the Falcons’ arch rival Saints, going 3-1 in four appearances, scoring one of his three career defensive touchdowns, intercepting three passes and returning them for 131 total yards, both of those latter numbers being personal bests for Jones against any opponent.
Jones prepped at Jesuit High in New Orleans, earned a three star rating from the 247Sports Composite, and starred at LSU in 30 career games before coming to Atlanta.