Commentary: Bears should give Justin Jones another contract
Daniel Bartel - USA Today Sports

Commentary: Bears should give Justin Jones another contract

by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO - Defensive tackle Justin Jones had a solid season in his second year with the Chicago Bears. He had a career-high of 4.5 sacks and 49 total tackles and is very much a player that is specific to the current three-technique head coach Matt Eberflus likes to use on defense. However, Jones is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. So, should the Bears give him a new contract or let him hit the open market?

Chicago’s defense was on another level in the second half of the season. They were generating massive turnovers and getting pressure in the pocket. While that is not reflected in Jones’ numbers, he was part of this transformation and also key to that level continuing once defensive Yannick Ngakoue went down with injury. He is also more of a veteran presence, which is always helpful when a lot of the other players are younger and still developing. This is especially true as Zacch Pickens and Gervon Dexter are coming off of their rookie season.s

From a financial standpoint, the Bears were about in the middle of the pack last season in what percentage of the salary cap was accounted for by the defensive tackles. Among their four defensive tackles, Jones had the highest cap hit, although Pickens and Dexter are on rookie contracts. The other player was Andrew Billings who did not even play half of the Bears’ defensive snaps last season. Jones, on the other hand, played nearly 70 percent of the snaps.

A starting defensive tackle can be incredibly expensive.

For example, Chris Jones, Aaron Donald and Jonathan Allen all had a cap hit over $20 million last season while Justin Jones’ cap hit was just under $7.5 million. While his performance is a lot different from Chris Jones, Donald and Allen, this says something about the market for defensive tackles.

With how Eberflus runs the defensive, assuming that he continues to call plays which is still in question, it would make a lot of sense to give Jones another contract. His contract could be similar to his previous contract, perhaps another two-year contract for around $12 million. The last contract he had gave him $7 million guaranteed and he could have about that amount in a new contract.

However, if the Bears really want to improve their defensive tackle position and get an elite player, Chris Jones and Fletcher Cox are among the top defensive tackles available in free agency for 2024. Either of those players would certainly be an upgrade for Justin Jones. Chris Jones, in particular, would certainly be an upgrade as he was named to the Pro Bowl and an All-Pro this past season. The downside to him is that he is coming off of a season where he made nearly $22 million and would probably demand at least that much in a new contract.

Another consideration is the other needs that the Bears have.

First, they need to decide on a quarterback. Second, they need another wide receiver to go with DJ Moore. They could also benefit from increased depth in the offensive line, some secondary players and certainly another edge rusher to play with Montez Sweat. In other words, they have needs that are more of a priority than defensive tackle, especially when they have two young players at that position they are currently developing and would benefit from some continuity at the position by having Justin Jones be a mentor for them once again.

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