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Why the Carolina Panthers can benefit from re-signing veterans like Deion Jones

When Deion Jones was introduced to Carolina Panthers fans this summer, during the team's 2023 training camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina, many believed the former Pro Bowl selectee would quickly add to the pool of veteran depth the organization was trying to build at the linebacker position. But less than a month after signing him to a one year deal, the team released Jones.

The team re-signed Jones to the Practice squad on Sep. 11 and promoted him to the active roster on Sep. 30 where he has made his biggest impact as a backup. And against the Jaguars, in his most prolific game, statistically, this season, Jones showed that he's still got something left in the tank. Jones recorded 7 tackles and his first sack as a Carolina Panther when he sacked Jaguars backup quarterback C.J. Beathard.

In a league where the average career for linebackers lasts just under three seasons, Jones, in his eighth season, has remained fairly healthy and appeared in 12 games for the Panthers despite not starting the year on the roster. With regard to the health of the eighth year linebacker, he's weathered a stint on injured reserve for a foot injury in 2018 as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. He underwent and cam back from shoulder surgery in 2022 where he also spent time on injured reserve.

Jones, who has played in at least 15 games in five of his eight seasons in the NFL, has found a way to be an effective piece of Ejiro Evero's 3-4 base defense. This season, Jones has had 31 tackles, 19 solo stops. The former second round draft pick out of LSU, originally drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, also has a sack and 4 tackles for loss since first seeing action with the team against the Seattle Seahawks to bring his career total to 11. He's also been effective with 4 passes defended. Only Frankie Luvu (5) has more passes defended in the linebacker group.

The first time Jones saw action was against the Seahawks - a game where the team watched the gains made by the defense evaporate due to a slew of penalties. But Jones, as a part of the defensive unit, started making an impact in that Seattle game when he intercepted a Geno Smith pass over the middle intended for Jaxon Smith-Njigba to bolster his total which now sits at 12 career interceptions. Jones (1) is among the seven Panthers' defenders with an interception this season. Teammate Kamu Grugier-Hill is the only other linebacker with an interception this season.

Jones' production shouldn't be expected to match the level of one of his best seasons, 2020, where he had 106 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 2 interceptions, or even his rookie year, but with a new head coaching hire in the team's immediate future, players with Jones' experience will likely be a critical asset in the restructuring that will occur. Based on who stays on the roster, who goes and who will coach them, the veteran presence is essential to add depth.

While not a long-term solution, what Jones brings, for possibly another few seasons, is a level of stability in dealing with injury and maintaining a good level of health as well as being a sounding board for younger players the team may add. And he knows what a winning culture feels like. Jones was part of the Atlanta Falcons' team that made it to the 2017 Super Bowl but fell in a 28-34 loss at the hands of the New England Patriots. But there's a lot of football between training camp and the big game to be impacted by players like Deion Jones.


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