While most recent discussion surrounding Deion Jones has centered on possible future landing spots, his story got a new angle Thursday.
The Falcons linebacker has not been participating in OTAs, and head coach Arthur Smith said Thursday Jones is rehabbing after having "clean-up" surgery that will keep him out of commission until training camp. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Jones had the surgery on his shoulder following the end of the season, but he is expected to be ready for camp.
This news comes amid speculation about the future for Jones, who many have expected to be either traded away or released sometime after June 1. Jones' contract has a salary-cap hit of $20 million, a team-high, and trading him away or releasing him would clear some of that much-needed cap space for the Falcons.
Unfortunately, teams are likely not going to be interested in making a deal for Jones if they know Atlanta will be forced to release him eventually and they can pick him up then. The Giants experienced this when they tried to trade away star cornerback James Bradberry, and found no one willing to work something out. New York eventually released Bradberry without receiving anything in return, and it's possible Atlanta will be forced to make a similar decision if it wants to let go of the 27-year-old.
Recent shoulder surgery likely only further complicates any trade talks, as there would be concerns over how healthy Jones will be when he recovers.
Jones has spent all six of his years in the NFL with the Falcons, racking up 11 interceptions, four forced fumbles, and 428 solo tackles over that span. He finished third in voting for the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016, and was part of a young defensive core that led the Falcons to Super Bowl LI, where they lost to the Patriots in overtime.
But diminishing production and recent offseason moves by Atlanta seem to indicate that the team is ready to move on from Jones. The Falcons drafted three players who could take reps at the linebacker position, Troy Andersen, Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone, and signed free-agents Lorenzo Carter, Rashaan Evans and Nick Kwiatkoski as well. The linebacker room is filling up, and it seems like Jones is the one who's not going to have a place anymore.