Broncos defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones rests on the bench during a game against the Chiefs on December 11, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Bart Young)

Broncos defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones rests on the bench during a game against the Chiefs on December 11, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Bart Young)

Source: Seahawks reach deal with DL Dre’Mont Jones

The deal is reportedly for three years and up to $51 million for the 26-year-old disruptive interior defensive lineman.

  • By Bob Condotta The Seattle Times
  • Tuesday, March 14, 2023 1:25pm
  • SportsSeahawks

By Bob Condotta / The Seattle Times

RENTON — At the close of the 2022 season, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the team needed to “become more dynamic up front” on its defensive line.

Seattle took a big step toward doing that Monday night, reaching agreement with one of the top defensive linemen on the free-agent market — Denver’s Dre’Mont Jones — on the first day that teams could negotiate with pending free agents from other teams.

A league source confirmed that the move is expected, while Jones himself tweeted that he was headed to Seattle, stating in part that he is now “a Hawk! Let’s Go!!”

The NFL Network reported Jones agreed to a three-year deal worth up to $51.5 million with $18 million guaranteed, an annual average of over $17.1 million, which is the highest per-year salary the Seahawks have given to an outside free agent during the Carroll/John Schneider era.

It’s a contract that marks a significant departure from Seattle’s usual cautious approach to the opening phase of free agency but illustrated just how desperate — or eager — the Seahawks are to fix their defense after finishing 25th in points allowed and 26th in yards allowed in 2022.

“We needed to be better up front,” Schneider said at the NFL scouting combine in February. “I think it was pretty evident. We were on the field a lot. We didn’t defend the run real well. We had some games in there, we did a really nice job and then we had several games that didn’t go so well. We know what the issues are and we’re ready to attack them and fix them.”

The 26-year-old Jones was considered among the best defensive linemen available — Pro Football Focus rated him the third-best interior defensive lineman available and the 22nd best overall.

A 6-foot-3, 281-pounder, Jones is considered an especially versatile player, able to line up just about anywhere on the defensive line but considered especially disruptive as a pass rusher, something Carroll has often pointed to as an area where Seattle needed improvement in recent seasons.

In the wake of the news of Jones’ agreement, many began to compare his game to that of former Seahawk Michael Bennett, who was also renowned for his versatility up front, with an ability to play outside on early downs and inside on passing downs.

“Jones still has room to round out his game, but the value of an interior pass rusher was never more apparent than during the 2022 season, and that’s exactly where Jones wins,” PFF wrote. “Since he entered the league in 2019, Jones’ 138 quarterback pressures are tied for the 19th most among interior defenders, with his 14.5% pass-rush win rate ranking 11th best over the span. Jones set career highs in snaps played, quarterback pressures and stops this past season. Players with his skill set don’t hit free agency too often, so teams looking for a 3-4 defensive end will be very interested in bringing him aboard this March.”

Of Jones’ 715 snaps in 2022, 448 came on passing plays and 267 on running plays, and if there’s an area of his game analysts think may need improving it’s against the run.

But the consistent production of 18 sacks and 32 quarterback hits the last three seasons — at least 5.5 sacks and 10 QB hits each year — had Jones pegged as one of the best pass-rushing interior linemen available in this year’s free-agency class.

Jones, who played at Ohio State, was the 71st overall pick in the draft in 2019. He has started 29 games in his career, including 13 in 2022 when he had a career-high 47 tackles and tied a career high with 6.5 sacks.

The Seahawks entered the day with just over $20 million in cap space, according to OvertheCap.com, but are expected to release Shelby Harris — a former teammate of Jones’ with Denver before he came to Seattle in the Russell Wilson trade a year ago — to create another $9 million more.

Seattle’s largest contact handed to an outside free agent in terms of per-year average in the the Carroll/Schneider era came a year ago when the Seahawks signed end Uchenna Nwosu to a two-year deal worth up to $19 million, or $9.5 million a year.

The Browns, located in Jones’ hometown, were also reported to have made a serious run at Jones.

Asked why he picked the Seahawks, Jones told NFL reporter Josina Anderson of CBSSports, “I feel like they have the biggest belief in me. They have a really promising team, and I am looking forward to transitioning to that city.”

Jones, who attended St. Ignatius High in Cleveland, where he played just two years of football and also played basketball, became just the third freshman in Ohio State history to start 10 or more games as a defensive lineman in 2016 and went on to be a first-team All-American by College Football News in 2018. He graduated with his degree in sociology that year and then declared for the draft with a season of eligibility remaining.

The news that Jones would sign came more than nine hours after teams were allowed to begin negotiating with free agents — teams can officially sign free agents from other teams on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Until the news about Jones broke, Seattle had not added anyone, leading to the idea that the Seahawks were keeping with what has been their usual custom in the Carroll/Schneider era of mostly staying out of the opening wave of free agency. And when Seattle has signed free agents, it has usually been to contracts of just one or two years.

But getting quarterback Geno Smith to agree to a heavily incentive-laden deal last week that meant a cap hit for 2023 of just $10.1 million helped give the Seahawks the flexibility to make a run at Jones.

Along with the report that Seattle is likely to release Harris, it was also revealed that Cody Barton — the Seahawks’ primary starter at weakside linebacker last year — will sign a one-year contract with Washington. His agent, David Canter, confirmed the news via social media.

That leaves the Seahawks with significant questions at linebacker with middle backer Jordyn Brooks still recovering from an ACL injury suffered Jan. 1 that means he may not be ready for the start of the 2023 season.

That has led to speculation the Seahawks could look to reunite with Bobby Wagner, who will be officially released by the Rams on Wednesday. The Rams have given Wagner permission to negotiate with other teams and Schneider said on his radio show on Seattle Sports 710 last week that he had talked with Wagner about his future.

But several reports Monday stated that Dallas has also contacted Wagner — the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator is Dan Quinn, who was Seattle’s DC during the Super Bowl seasons of 2013 and 2014.

Reported ESPN’s Ed Werder: “The #Cowboys have contacted LB Bobby Wagner about their interest in signing him for the second time in as many years. Seahawks interested too. Source tells me Wagner decision not imminent as both seek to determine his current value.”

Jones’ cap hits had yet to be revealed as of Monday night. How much Seattle has left will also undoubtedly factor in to what it could offer Wagner.

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