Chris Jones is one of the most high profile names hitting free agency this year, and Denver knows all too well the impact he can have along the defensive line.
Jones is coming off of an impressive two-year stretch where he has established himself as one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the game, capping it off with a Super Bowl performance that probably should have earned him the MVP award.
He finished 2018 with a whopping 15.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, and logged 49 total pressures. He continued his dominance this past season, even as he missed games due to injury. Despite playing only 13 games and 58% of team snaps last year, he still managed nine sacks (which put him #7 among interior defenders), eight tackles for loss, and 27 pressures.
What kind of contract could he get
For a player of his caliber to hit the open market at his age (he’ll be 26 when the season starts), I think he’ll command a very big premium. The comparison contracts I think make most sense are Aaron Donald’s deal signed in 2018, Demarcus Lawrence, and Frank Clark’s deals signed this past offseason.
They all hover in the $20 - $22 million range per year with $50 - $60 million in guarantees over the life of the contract.
Why the Broncos should sign him
It’s not that difficult to see why. If Denver lets Shelby Harris, Derek Wolfe, and Adam Gotsis all walk in free agency, there will be a massive hole at two defensive end spots, with only Dre’Mont Jones as a legitimate candidate to be a full-time replacement.
Jones provides a massive upgrade in the pass rush department, and would give Denver the best pass rushing group in the NFL with Jones lining up between Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
Watch his work below on opposing guards 1-on-1 and then imagine offenses having to pick their poison on who to give extra attention between Miller, Chubb, and Jones.
He also brings his disruption into the run game, where his quickness and explosiveness cause issues in the backfield for opposing offenses.
My 5 favorite pass rush reps from Chris Jones in 2018: pic.twitter.com/0yyvOB8HbE— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) June 12, 2019
Chris Jones has rare quickness for a guy his size (6-6/310) + refined hand usage (placement, variance, timing) that show up primarily as a rusher but also defending the run.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) June 12, 2019
I think he could become a more consistent run-defender at the POA + in pursuit, but the flashes are fun: pic.twitter.com/zMsB9Avb2x
Why the Broncos shouldn’t sign him
Cost is the biggest factor. He’ll command a high price, and even though Denver can technically afford it, it may not make the most sense to go shopping on the top shelf if they plan to try and fill all their roster holes before the draft.
Also, this is a little thing, but Jones isn’t the most seamless fit in Fangio’s defense as he is more of a penetrator, getting upfield in the run game, as opposed to holding gaps, stacking and shedding.
Not a big deal, because if you can’t find a place in your defense for a talent like Jones, you don’t deserve to be coaching in the NFL, but it is something to note.
I wouldn’t feel super comfortable with Jones x2 as Denver’s primary ends, as there isn’t really anyone to kick down into the 1/2i tech in sub packages and protect against the run while providing some pass rush juice. That could potentially be Mike Purcell, but I don’t think you want him taking a ton of sub package snaps.
Now, that doesn’t mean Denver couldn’t sign Jones, and then just find another bargain bin guy in free agency or draft someone for that role, but signing Jones alone doesn’t fully fill the defensive line void.
I’m a big fan of Jones’ game and salivate at the thought of finally having a disruptive interior force to pair with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
I think Denver has the room and desire to make at least one big splash in free agency, and I suspect it will be on the defensive side of the ball, so I wouldn’t completely rule this out.
However, the bidding may end up getting too high, or Denver decides to make their big ticket signing elsewhere. I can dream, but I’m not getting my hopes up.