When the Indianapolis Colts signed former Ravens’ DE standout, Arthur Jones, to a 5 year, $33 million dollar contract, you may have been surprised. If you were like me, the first thought that may have entered your mind was “luxury”. This is a team that still has one of the better 3-4 DE’s in all of football in Corey Redding and just invested a 4 year, $22 million dollar contract in DE Ricky Jean-Francois (RJF) just a season ago. That’s a whole lot of salary cap money tied up into one position on a team that still has some potential glaring holes at center, safety, and nosetackle. Sure, Arthur Jones is a very good player, but could the money have been better served spent elsewhere?
However, upon further review, this isn’t just a move that makes sense now. It makes a whole lot of sense going forward. No one is discounting that Corey Redding is one of the better 3-4 DE’s in all of football, the advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus.com (PFF) demonstrated that he ranked 7th among all 3-4 DE’s against the run last season. He’s a leader of this defense, but at age 33, how much football does he realistically have left? He’s a free agent at the end of this season, and it will be interesting to see what the Colts’ and his future plans are. A. Jones may not just be playing alongside C. Redding this season, but he ultimately may be his future successor.
As far as RJF is concerned, he’s a bit overpaid given his production, but he’s still a solid defensive lineman. PFF’s advanced statistics show that he ranked 19th against the run, which is fairly good production all things considered. However, this was a player that in San Francisco was at his best as a rotational lineman, not necessarily as an everydown starter. A three-monster DE rotation of A. Jones, Redding, and RJF, not only keeps the older C. Redding fresher, but it also allows RJF to return to the role that he excelled at two seasons prior.
What can we reasonably expect from A. Jones? At age 27, he’s just entered what should be the prime of his NFL career. He should have a lot of very good football left in him. Aside, he’s the older brother of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Jon Jones, and New England Patriots’ DE, Chandler Jones, so athletic ability clearly runs in the family. Not only is he athletic, but he’s also one of the best run stuffing DE’s in football, coming in at 14th among all 3-4 DE’s. For a team that was the 7th worst run defense last season, at 6’3″ and 315 pounds, Jones should add some much needed bulk and strength to the Colts’ defensive line. He should pair with Redding to form a more than formidable tandem, with RJF also rotating in to keep our big bodies fresh.
Additionally, A. Jones has the ability to play nosetackle. While I’d expect NT Josh Chapman to handle the majority of the reps at the position this coming season, it would not surprise me at all to see A. Jones slide over to NT on passing downs to give the Colts’ a better pass rushing presence.
If anyone knows how to use A. Jones, it may be Colts’ head coach, Chuck Pagano, who previously coached A. Jones for a number of seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, Arthur’s former team. In fact, Chuck Pagano’s presence in Indianapolis may have heavily persuaded A. Jones to sign with the Horseshoe. The Baltimore Sun had previously quoted about A. Jones’ affection for the Colts’ head coach. Jones gushed, “He’s a great man and a great leader. He’s going to be back coaching and kicking butt. Absolutely, this guy has so much passion and loves the sport every single day and came ready to work and had us fired up.”
For the Colts, A. Jones will give them another big body, who can hopefully help to anchor a Colts’ defense that has always seemingly struggled against the run. If he pans out like C. Redding (another Raven castoff), the Colts will probably be doing backflips, and all indications are that he will. He’s expected to be an instant leader of this defense, along with C. Redding, R. Mathis, and J. Freeman, and to help this defense take another jump into becoming an elite 3-4 defense under head coach Chuck Pagano. Time will tell. Colts’ fans are dreaming, “Mr. Jones and D, they’re gonna be big stars…”