By Luke Worsham – Tennessee Titans writer
Over the next month, the Tennessee Titans will have to make decisions on their players whose contracts are expiring.
When it comes to defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, the Titans’ front office should make a priority of getting him a new long-term deal. Here are some of the factors that illustrate why Jones is a crucial part of the team’s defense.
DaQuan Jones’ History
Jones was selected by the Titans in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Usually, fourth-round picks spend a majority of their careers merely as depth pieces, especially defensive lineman.
For Jones, however, he became a starter on the Titans’ defensive line by the end of his rookie season. He has held a starting spot at defensive tackle ever since.
Playing alongside three-time Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey, Jones has helped the Titans become one of the NFL’s elite run defenses. The pinnacle of his success came last season when he broke out prior to suffering a season-ending biceps injury.
While Jones has never posted impressive numbers in the box score, what he has done is mastered the art of consistency. On his worst day, he is a good run stopper and space-plugger against the pass. On his best, he is an all-around quality interior defensive lineman.
Type of Player
Similar to Derrick Morgan and Jurrell Casey, Jones had to move away from his natural position when the Titans switched to a 3-4 defense prior to the 2014 season. As did Morgan and Casey, he made the switch seamlessly.
During his time at Penn State in a 4-3 defense, Jones played defensive tackle. In the NFL, he had to transition into playing the 5-technique position.
Jones has easily shown that he is an above-average starting-caliber interior defensive lineman. He does, however, lack the explosion and athleticism needed to be a highly productive pass rusher from the inside in today’s NFL.
If Jones were to remain a member of the Titans in 2018, his role would be the same it’s always been. He is a two-down workhorse whose size and athletic traits allow him to be a quality sub-package player on third downs.
Just before free agency kicked off in 2017, the Titans locked-up defensive lineman Karl Klug to a multi-year contract extension. That deal will likely be the baseline for whatever Jones gets.
If Klug had hit the free agent market, there likely would have been many teams interested in his services as a third-down specialist and high-motor player. His new contract with the Titans was a two-year deal worth up to $5 million.
Unlike Klug, however, Jones has been a full-time starter in each of the last three seasons. That alone adds value to him.
With Klug’s deal as the baseline, Chris Baker’s contract with the Buccaneers is likely the ceiling. Tampa Bay brought Baker in following a quality season with Washington, signing him to a three-year deal worth up to $15.75 million.
Jones’ potential contract extension with the Titans, in all likelihood, would be a happy medium between these two contracts.
Market Value Contract Estimate: 3 years, $13.5 million, $6.25M guaranteed.
While DaQuan Jones is not the kind of guy anyone’s going to be pounding the table for, and while he won’t stand out as overly impressive on the stat sheet, he is nonetheless an important part of the Titans’ defense.
Usually, every team drafts at least one defensive lineman every year. That wasn’t the case for the Titans last season, as they felt confident enough in their in-house group to look elsewhere in the draft.
If Jones goes to another team, players like Austin Johnson and Karl Klug could certainly step up to fill the void. But, the Titans would lose the rich defensive line depth that has helped their high-quality run defense to constantly be fresh.
The Titans have a lot of cap space, and re-signing DaQuan Jones would take up a very small fraction of it. It’s a very small fraction that they need to take up.
Cover image via Titans Online.