Broncos' Offseason DL Acquisitions Give D.J. Jones No Excuses in 2024

The big defensive tackle is under the gun to produce for the Denver Broncos in a contract year.
Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle D.J. Jones (93) following his sack fumble recovery in the first quarter against the New England Patriots at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle D.J. Jones (93) following his sack fumble recovery in the first quarter against the New England Patriots at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2023 season was rough for the Denver Broncos defensive line. The Broncos had signed Zach Allen, who went on to be a one-player show upfront. It was a disappointing season for D.J. Jones, especially after what the team got out of him in 2022.

Jones failed to answer the bell in 2023. In fact, he was one of the worst defensive linemen in the NFL and rotated with two who somehow managed to even worse. 

In 2023, Jones was among 75 NFL defensive linemen who played at least 500 snaps. His performance was not up to par, ranking 55th in overall defensive and run defense grade, 73rd in tackling grade, 57th in pass rush grade, and 60th in total pressures.

Jones also had the fourth-highest missed tackle percentage and ranked 32nd in stops. These statistics paint a clear picture of his disappointing season, which is even more evident when you review the game footage. 

With Jones taking a step back in his second year as a Bronco, many fans and analysts expected him to be a cap casualty. His cap hit is $12.9 million, and the Broncos could save $9.9 million by cutting him, so he it's still possible he could be a cap casualty.

After multiple restructures, Jones currently has the third-highest cap hit on the Broncos roster. He comes in behind Garett Bolles and Courtland Sutton, both of whom are also uncertain about their status on the team for this upcoming season. 

But is Jones' 2024 outlook? Let's examine the new lay of the land in Denver.

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The addition of John Franklin-Myers could be a game-changer. The move puts Jones in a more natural position at nose tackle, where he excelled for the Broncos in the 2022 season and with the San Francisco 49ers before that. With Franklin-Myers and Allen on board, Jones should have more freedom to disrupt the interior, potentially leading to a significant improvement in his performance. 

This is the final year of the three-year, $30 million contract Jones signed with the Broncos. If he can bounce back, he could garner another solid payday, as he will only be 30 years old next January.

The Broncos have more talent around Jones on the defensive line this year, and that should help boost Jones. Not only did Denver add Franklin-Myers, but also Malcolm Roach, who will help with the rotation. 

Roach is a good run defender, so Jones can have some versatility on where he plays on the line depending on the down and distance. It could also add some versatility for defensive coordinator Vance Joseph with the defensive fronts and even allow the Broncos to throw more four-down linemen fronts at opponents with Franklin-Myers, Jones, Roach, and Allen. 

Bottom Line

If Jones can demonstrate improvement this season, it could have significant implications for the Broncos. The team could consider re-signing him, or if he walks in free agency, it could aim for a compensatory pick.

A better season could increase Jones' value, potentially pricing him out of the Broncos' range, but this could also enhance the team's compensatory pick return, underscoring the importance of his performance. 

There is no excuse for Jones not to bounce back this season. It's a contract year, and players have been stepping up and bouncing back in many cases.

The Broncos needed a better defensive line, so they focused on adding more talent. The next step is getting improvements from multiple players, starting with Jones. 

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Erick Trickel

ERICK TRICKEL

Erick Trickel is the Senior Draft Analyst for Mile High Huddle, has covered the Denver Broncos, NFL, and NFL Draft for the site since 2014.