San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle D.J. Jones is a glue and effort guy every front seven needs. Over the next few weeks, we’ll learn which of the NFL’s 32 defenses is lucky enough to have him. Jones enters free agency as the No. 1 interior defensive lineman and the No. 35 free agent overall on PFN’s Top 50 Free Agent Rankings.
D.J. Jones: Free Agency Overview
While Jones isn’t a household name, there are very few people alive with more strength at the point of attack. He would improve any run defense he joins. But he isn’t just some mountain in the middle. Jones can move and make plays, as evidenced by 17 tackles for loss in the last two seasons.
Recapping Jones’ 2021 season
The San Francisco 49ers ranked sixth in yards per play (5.1), seventh in yards per carry (4.0), and ninth in scoring defense (21.5) in 2021. Jones was a big part of all of that. He had a career year as his contract expired. Jones produced 56 tackles (10 for loss), 6 QB pressures, 6 QB hits, and 2 sacks. In the playoffs, he was excellent, with 8 tackles (1 for loss) and a sack. The only quibble with his body of work? 5 missed tackles during the regular season.
Jones’ contract estimate and salary cap implications
Jones, a former sixth-round pick, has made just $6.1 million in five NFL seasons. That includes the $3.5 million he made on a one-year deal in 2021. Expect a significant bump for him in 2022. While Spotrac didn’t calculate a market value for Jones, it’s fair to expect him to rank among the top 20 defensive tackles.
A three-year, $24 million deal is entirely reasonable. The 49ers will have to free up money to do any business, including re-signing Jones. As of February 24, they were $3 million over the cap.
Possible landing spots for Jones
PFN already has made the case for the Cleveland Browns to sign Jones, but they’ll surely have competition. Other teams that need defensive tackle help include the Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, and New Orleans Saints.
What they’re saying about Jones
“I think D.J. is in his own category, but I think a guy who I’ve seen with the strength and power that D.J. has, similar guy, different body types, but Philadelphia Eagles DL Fletcher Cox is one guy I played with who’s a very physical guy, being able to shed blocks and wreck things in the backfield and that’s what you see D.J. doing as well.
“So the one guy I played with that I can compare him to from that nature, as far as being violent, attacking, knocking guys back, and making plays in the backfield would be Fletcher Cox.” — San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans
“D.J. Jones is a trash can full of dirt. The fifth-year player out of Ole Miss has improved every season in San Francisco, and he really turned it on toward the end of the 2021 regular season and into the postseason.” — PFN NFL analyst Dalton Miller
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