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Analysis: Breaking down Dre’Mont Jones’ reported contract with Seahawks

March 14, 2023 Updated Tue., March 14, 2023 at 4:44 p.m.

Denver Broncos defensive end Dre'Mont Jones (93) celebrates a stop during the game at Allegiant Stadium on Oct. 2, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The home team Las Vegas Raiders won 32-23 over the Denver Broncos during week four of the NFL season.  (Tribune News Service)
Denver Broncos defensive end Dre'Mont Jones (93) celebrates a stop during the game at Allegiant Stadium on Oct. 2, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The home team Las Vegas Raiders won 32-23 over the Denver Broncos during week four of the NFL season. (Tribune News Service)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The full details on the contract for new Seahawks defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones revealed Tuesday morning show Seattle breaking from its usual free-agent script while still keeping some long-term flexibility.

As reported Monday night, Jones has agreed to a three-year contract worth up to $51.53 million.

That marks, by far, the most significant contract in terms of overall dollar value and in per-year average – at just over $17.1 million – that Seattle has given an outside free agent in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era.

In that time, Seattle has more typically given just one- or two-year deals to external free agents – and especially since the team emerged in 2012.

In 2011, Seattle signed receiver Sidney Rice to a five-year, $41 million deal and tight end Zach Miller to a five-year, $34 million contract. Since then, the biggest Seattle has handed out to an external free agent was last year to rush end/linebacker Uchenna Nwosu at two years and just over $19 million.

Seattle memorably signed Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to incredibly good deals in 2013, Avril getting $15 million over two years and Bennett $5 million for one year before each signed big extensions the following year after the Seahawks had won the Super Bowl.

Seattle got no such bargain with Jones, who was regarded as one of the top defensive linemen available in free agency – and especially sought after since he is also still just 26 years old – with one person saying he was the Seahawks’ top target as they attempt to remake their defensive line this offseason.

Via details revealed by and others on Tuesday, Jones will get $23 million fully guaranteed, which consists of a $20 million signing bonus and a $3 million guaranteed salary for 2023.

That represents a hefty increase for Jones, who made $5.6 million on his just-expired four-year rookie contract with Denver, which selected him in the third round out of Ohio State in 2019.

But that is the extent of the full guarantees, with Seattle as always leaving some wiggle room to get out of the contract before the final year if desired.

First, the all-important salary cap numbers. Via OTC, Jones will have a cap hit of $10.05 million in 2023.

The cap numbers then increase to $18.1 million in 2024 and $23.1 million in 2025. But Seattle could also save $16.5 million against the cap in 2025 if Jones were released – or more likely, if all goes well, if by that point Jones has earned a new contract/extension.

Jones’ contract includes an $11 million salary for 2024 of which $7 million becomes guaranteed on Feb. 10.

That guarantee is almost certain to happen barring something unforeseen.

And that means that logically, Jones plays the 2023 and 2024 seasons on this contract and earns roughly $35 million, and then probably the contract is redone in one way or another in 2025, when Jones has a $16 million nonguaranteed salary.

The key for Seattle was keeping the 2023 cap hit to a reasonable level, and the Seahawks were able to do that.

Jones has what will likely be the seventh-highest cap hit on the team in 2023 – barring moves with any of the players above him – behind Jamal Adams ($18.11 million), Quandre Diggs ($18.1 million), Tyler Lockett ($16.7 million), DK Metcalf ($13.7 million), Nwosu ($13.01 million) and Geno Smith ($10.1 million).

Shelby Harris also had a $12.2 million cap hit for 2023. The Seahawks announced that he and Quinton Jefferson were released. Jefferson’s cut saved almost $4.5 million against the cap.

With Harris and Jefferson still on the books, OTC had Seattle with just over $7 million in cap space and negative $2.6 million in effective cap space.

But with the $13.3 million of the releases of Jefferson and Harris and those numbers expand to roughly $20 million in overall cap space and about $10.7 million in effective cap space – or, what is a team’s cap space minus what it is projected to need to sign its draft picks, of which Seattle has 10.

Seattle could make some more moves to add to that cap space. Defensive tackle Al Woods is 36 and has a nonguaranteed salary of $3.25 million and Seattle could save $3.625 million if he is released (though that begs the question of who plays inside if free agent Poona Ford doesn’t return).

And a simple restructure of the contract of Adams – turning salary into signing bonus – could add about $7 million.

What we do know is that Jones is probably going to be the biggest splash Seattle makes during the free agent signing period – aside from retaining Smith.

It turned out to be a much bigger one than anyone anticipated, given Seattle’s history of treading lightly into the waters of early free agency.

But it’s one that shows how serious Seattle is about trying to fix its defensive front after a season in which the Seahawks were 25th in points allowed and 30th in rushing yards allowed.

The work is hardly done – expect Seattle to use a few of those five draft picks in the first three rounds on the front seven, as well. So just how this is all going to come together will take a little while to figure out.

But for now, we know what the biggest veteran piece to the puzzle is, and just how much it cost.

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