The Minnesota Vikings signed former Green Bay Packers defensive end Datone Jones on Tuesday, marking just the team’s third free agent acquisition this offseason. Jones was the 26th overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft and spent four seasons with Packers at multiple defensive positions.
Jones joins the Vikings on a one-year, $3.75 million deal for the 2017 season. According to Mike Garafolo, he can make up to $5 million this year and has the chance to serve a crucial rotational role for Mike Zimmer. With his versatility, Jones can line up at defensive end—his natural position coming out of UCLA—or as a down lineman in a three-technique.
In 59 career games, Jones has made seven starts and recorded 80 tackles, nine sacks, one interception, and two fumble recoveries. Before entering the NFL, he was UCLA teammates with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, who likely played a key role in luring Jones from Green Bay to Minnesota.
As a member of the Packers in 2016, Jones lined up at defensive end, outside linebacker, and even contributed on special teams. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has shown a proclivity for acquiring multi-faceted players—Emmanuel Lamur in 2016—and Jones fits the mold of a signing with room to grow on Minnesota’s roster.
In a conference call with local media, Jones said he “most definitely” can transition and become a three-technique defensive tackle for the Vikings. He’ll join Sharrif Floyd at the position, providing much-needed depth in a spot impacted by injuries last season. Without Floyd, the Vikings relied heavily on Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen, though the combo lacked their counterpart’s signature burst and athleticism.
At the very least, Jones gives Zimmer even more ammunition along the defensive line. He never fully realized his potential with the Packers, but Jones’ one-year deal is an opportunity for the former Bruin to “prove it” as part of Minnesota’s already-talented pass rush.