Falcons’ Deion Jones close to returning from PUP list

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons former Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones, who is on the physically-unable-to-perform list, is close to returning.

Jones, who had offseason shoulder surgery, was seen on the practice fields for the first time since the start of training camp.

“Yeah, I’m getting close,” Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.

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Falcons coach Arthur Smith was asked about Jones earlier in the week before the practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“We have him every day working. I don’t get (into) predictions, and I’m not a doctor, but every day he’s working,” Smith said.

Smith has refused to put a timetable on Jones’ potential return.

Jones had one of the four big contracts that general manager Terry Fontenot cited at the NFL scouting combine. They have made three moves – but not with Jones.

After losing the Deshaun Watson derby, the Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts and took on a $40.5 million dead salary-cap hit. The Falcons extended left tackle Jake Matthews and defensive end Grady Jarrett’s contracts to lower their salary-cap numbers for 2022.

Jones’ deal has not been touched, and he now has the highest salary-cap number on the team, at $20 million for the 2022 season. The Falcons also guaranteed Jones’ 2022 salary of $9.6 million. He has two years left on his contract, with a base salary of $11.9 million in 2023 with a cap number of $18.4 million.

The Falcons signed linebacker Rashaan Evans in free agency and drafted linebacker Troy Andersen in the second round (58th overall). The Falcons also signed veteran Nick Kwiatkoski.

Evans and Mykal Walker have been working with the first-team defense and started together in the exhibition opener against the Lions.

Jones and Foye Oluokun, who led the NFL in tackles with 192 last season and signed with Jacksonville in free agency, were the starters last season on a defense that finished ranked 27th in the league. Jones had 137 tackles last season, but his spot in the lineup is not guaranteed.

“All we’re trying to do here is get the right guys,” Smith said before the start of camp. “It’s competitive. And that’s the nature of the NFL. And so that (group), however, it shakes out. I’ve said this many times, and it’s no secret there, there is open competition.”

Walker played 193 defensive snaps (17%) last season and 385 defensive snaps (36%) as a rookie.

Evans was taken 22nd overall in the 2018 draft. After 50 starts over 59 games, the Titans didn’t pick up his fifth-year option.

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