According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Patriots are wasting no time in free agency and are retaining veteran defensive back Jonathan Jones on a two-year deal. Jones was one of the team's biggest question marks entering the offseason as he was due to hit free agency for the first time since making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2016. Now, the team will reportedly lock him up for two more seasons, ensuring a level of valuable continuity in their secondary.
Jones signed a three-year extension with the Patriots in 2019 and has been one of the team's most reliable players, playing nearly every game in six of his seven seasons with the team. 2021 stands out as the lone outlier as Jones played just six games due to injury. Between his versatility and availability New England should feel good about retaining Jones' services for the next two seasons.
The move also is magnified after the retirement of Devin McCourty, the key leader on the back end of New England's defense. While Jones has played snaps all over the secondary, including at safety, his return can help offset the loss of McCourty but it's unlikely that Jones makes a move to free safety full-time. In 2020 he played 67 free safety snaps but over the last two seasons he's played just 14 total at that position.
After a solid year playing on the outside extensively for the first time in his career, there are a number of ways Jones can contribute and is sure to bring important leadership and knowledge as the team transitions away from their long-time captain who made sure everyone was on the same page. Jones' speed and savvy will always make him a key matchup piece against some of the faster receiving corps in the league.
Since making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2016 out of Auburn, Jones has 101 games under his belt, scoring his first pick-six this past season to go with 11 career interceptions. His four in 2022 were also a career-best, as were his 11 passes defensed. Still just 29 and coming off his best season yet, this reported signing is a slam dunk way for the Patriots to continue their solid start to free agency as they retain a key player that has been internally developed.