49ers free agent No. 3: Nose tackle D.J. Jones
There’s no questioning five-year pro nose tackle D.J. Jones put forth his best season since being selected late in the 2017 NFL Draft a year ago, appearing in every regular-season game for the first time in his career and finishing with a career-best 56 tackles, 10 of which were for a loss, three quarterback hits, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Jones wasn’t just a prime reason why the 49ers’ run defense was so potent over the latter half of 2021, but he also ensured the team’s pass rush didn’t suffer from the interior when fellow defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw was lost for the year with a knee injury early in the season.
The Niners were able to retain Jones on a cheap one-year, $3.5 million contract last season. Yet the 27 year old certainly created a market for himself with his play, prompting general manager John Lynch to note how it would be “difficult” for San Francisco to re-sign him now.
As such, San Francisco has to face the reality Jones might have priced himself out of the 49ers’ comfort range, and a re-sign deal isn’t aided by the fact 1-technique tackles are generally easy to find on the open market for relatively cheap.
Regardless, Jones might be of a higher caliber, and it won’t be super easy to keep him in the fold.
If Jones does return, look for a new four-year deal worth $16.5 million.
Prediction: D.J. Jones earns a four-year deal worth $16.5 million ($4.125 million APY) with $9 million guaranteed