This Robert Saleh favorite could be perfect NY Jets cap casualty target

The Jets could reunite D.J. Jones with Robert Saleh
NY Jets head coach Robert Saleh
NY Jets head coach Robert Saleh / Al Bello/GettyImages

The NY Jets have a number of important needs to address this offseason, but one of the more underrated roster holes to fill is at defensive tackle. That could lead the team to target a former Robert Saleh favorite in San Francisco.

Denver Broncos defensive tackle D.J. Jones is set to enter the final year of his contract in 2024, but the expectation is that the former 49ers defensive lineman will end up as a cap casualty.

The Broncos would save just under $10 million by releasing him while taking on under $3 million in dead cap. If Jones does reach the open market, the Jets should be one of the teams most interested.

Jones spent five seasons with the 49ers, four of which were spent under Saleh. The 29-year-old played the best football of his career with Saleh as his head coach and could fill an under-the-radar need for the Jets this offseason.

D.J. Jones would be a perfect free-agent target for the NY Jets

A sixth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Jones developed into a full-time starting defensive tackle by his third season in the NFL. At 6-foot-1, 305 pounds, Jones is best as a run-stuffing, one-tech defensive tackle.

But this isn't another Al Woods situation. Jones is an excellent athlete for his size, which is what makes him such an ideal fit in Saleh's defense. He's a big-bodied run defender who has the athleticism necessary to thrive in an attacking 4-3.

Jones started 31 games over the last two seasons with the Broncos, but his performance wasn't at the same level it was in San Francisco. After earning Pro Football Focus grades north of 67 in two of his final three seasons with the 49ers, Jones' PFF grades dropped to 63.6 and 56.2 in his two years in Denver.

He also battled a nagging knee injury this past season, although that didn't stop him from appearing in 16 games. Still, Jones' best days definitely came under Saleh in San Francisco.

The Jets have just two defensive tackles under contract entering the offseason: Quinnen Williams and Tanzel Smart. Quinton Jefferson and Solomon Thomas are both free agents, and it's not a guarantee both players, who are each coming off career years, will re-sign with the team.

Jones also occupies a role that neither Jefferson nor Thomas can fill. He's the traditional run-stuffing one-tech defensive tackle the Jets have been searching for since the departure of Foley Fatukasi.

The Jets' defense struggled to defend the run when Williams was off the field last season. The lack of another quality run-stuffer in the middle of their defensive line certainly contributed to that.

Jones fills an important need for the Jets, is still only 29 years old, and has experience succeeding under Saleh. Assuming he becomes a cap casualty victim in the coming weeks, the Jets should make a serious attempt to sign him.