Player: Jarvis Jones
Position: Outside Linebacker
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2016 Salary Cap Hit: $2,769,933
2016 Season Breakdown:
Here is one of those big, juicy ones to discuss. Jarvis Jones is expected to hit the open market in under a month when free agency opens, and it certainly does not appear as though the Steelers intend to re-sign the former first-round draft pick.
If that is the case, then he will become the first former first-round draft pick that they have parted with within his first four seasons—outside of a trade—in the Kevin Colbert era. Of course, prior to the 2011 draft, all first-round draft picks came with five-year contracts, rather than with the fifth-year club option that the majority now receive.
But the Steelers chose not the pick up that option, an obvious signal of their dissatisfaction in his production. Yet they still gave him the opportunity to prove himself, leaving him in the starting lineup and receiving the majority of snaps in a rotation.
While he did not play poorly by any means, he was simply not productive enough, particularly as a pass rusher, to justify leaving him on the top of the pecking order when James Harrison was outperforming him on fewer snaps on pretty much a weekly basis.
After Jones made a couple of costly mistakes at the tail end of a four-game losing streak that nearly derailed their season, he was demoted in favor of Harrison, and a few games later he was benched entirely.
He did get an opportunity to start in a meaningless regular-season finale and had perhaps the best game of his career, but it was against the worst team in the league. Still, he forced a fumble, deflected a pass, and recorded a sack against Joe Thomas. Whodathunkit?
But it was his only sack of the entire season, and just the sixth of his career in four seasons and 50 games played. He has shown growth over the course of his career, and has played the run reasonably well, even making some splash plays (six forced turnovers and 10 pass deflections in his career), but the lack of a pass rush is truly damning for an outside linebacker.
Free Agency Outlook:
Which is exactly why the Steelers are not expected to be very interested in bringing him back. They already have a bevy of outside linebackers who can play the run but are not impactful players against the pass. They have no need of another one of those.
Still, it will be interesting to see what sort of deal he might fetch on the open market. Surely more than a minimum contract—remember, not even Terence Garvin and Sean Spence got veteran deals, if that is what you were thinking—but will he be handed a starting job somewhere? Has some team perhaps coveted him the way the Steelers did Ladarius Green? Might a team even consider moving him inside, or as a 4-3 linebacker?