Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons Kick Off Trade Season With Deion Jones Swap

The Cleveland Browns acquired LB Deion Jones from the Atlanta Falcons with the hope he can buoy their disappointing defense.

Just hours after falling to 2-3 with a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Cleveland Browns are adding help on the defensive side of the ball. Three weeks before the NFL trade deadline, the Browns have acquired linebacker Deion Jones from the Atlanta Falcons, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Media and confirmed by PFN’s Aaron Wilson.

Cleveland Browns Trade for Deion Jones

Near the trade deadline, NFL teams often attack the most obvious holes on their roster — and the Browns had a clear weak spot. Cleveland gave up nearly 450 combined rushing yards to the Falcons and Chargers over Weeks 4 and 5. Through five games, they’re 30th in EPA per rush attempt.

The Browns’ offense has largely been able to keep pace with their opponents thanks to a league-best rushing attack, so the club’s front office likely felt the need to shore up the other side of the ball. Cleveland’s defense was supposed to take a leap this season, but the secondary has only offered league-average results, while the front seven has gotten gashed in the run game.

It didn’t help matters that starting linebacker Anthony Walker went down with an injury in Week 3, forcing the Browns to insert Sione Takitaki into the lineup alongside Jacob Phillips and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, both of whom are sub-230 pounds and occasional liabilities against the run.

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Jones, at his best, should be an improvement over Takitaki, and the Browns only agreed to a late-round pick swap in 2024 to bring him in, as Jake Trotter of ESPN reported.

Given the cost, this is a low-risk acquisition for the Browns — but it’s fair to wonder what type of player they’re getting in Jones. The 27-year-old wasn’t very effective for the Falcons in 2021, and he’s currently on injured reserve after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Jones will be surrounded by far more talented teammates once he gets healthy in Cleveland. If he can return to some semblance of his former self, Jones will be an interesting midseason addition for the Browns, who will only take on about $1.5 million in salary by trading for Jones.

Jones is signed through next year, but this isn’t a long-term commitment for Cleveland. The Browns can part ways next offseason without incurring any dead money. Given that Jones’ 2023 base salary is almost $12 million, they almost surely will, no matter how well he performs over the next three months.

This is unlikely to be the final pre-trade deadline move for the Browns. They could use help at defensive tackle, and another wide receiver wouldn’t hurt. Cleveland is lapping the league in cap space, so they can acquire almost anyone they want.

Atlanta Falcons Continue to Sell Off Pieces

This may not be the last trade for the Falcons, either. Even though Atlanta always plays incredibly hard on the field, they’re very much in the middle of a rebuild off of it.

General manager Terry Fontenot has reportedly been trying to trade Jones for some time, and the Falcons have now cleared a potential starting spot for rookie linebacker Troy Andersen. Atlanta will take more than $12 in 2023 dead money by moving Jones, but that represents a cap savings of roughly $8 million.

The Falcons have moved on from nearly all of their aged players. They sent future Hall of Famer Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans last summer, acquiring a second-round pick in a trade that now looks very astute. Atlanta then moved Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round selection after their ill-fated pursuit of Deshaun Watson.

Grady Jarrett is the last Pro Bowl-caliber veteran remaining on the Falcons’ roster, and it’s possible they could trade him before the Nov. 1 deadline. If the Browns were interested in another deal, Jarrett could make sense for them on the interior, and there are myriad other teams in need of DT help.

Head coach Arthur Smith doesn’t seem like someone ever ready to give up on a season, but if the Falcons attempted a full-scale sell-off, they have other players that could attract interest.

Right tackle Kaleb McGary is one of the NFL’s most improved players through five games, but he’ll be a free agent next spring after Atlanta declined his fifth-year option. Wide receiver Olamide Zacchaeus, center Matt Hennessy, and edge rusher Lorenzo Carter are also conceivable trade candidates.

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