The Pittsburgh Steelers have declined to pick up the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Jarvis Jones’ contract, per multiple reports. Jones will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season.
Today was the last day for NFL teams to make a decision on fifth-year contracts for players drafted in the first round in 2013. Had the Steelers picked up the option, they would have owed Jones nearly $8.4 million — as long as he was on the roster come the start of the league year (March 2017).
Jones, who was taken with the No. 17 overall pick in 2013 from the University of Georgia, hasn’t turned out to be the linebacker the Steelers hoped he’d be. Originally taken to fill the shoes of James Harrison, who left to go to the Cincinnati Bengals, Jones only has five sacks in three seasons. He dealt with a wrist injury in 2014 that limited his play, but, as a pass rusher, Pittsburgh expected — and needed — more from him. (To be fair, defensive coordinator Keith Butler did have Jones play more of a drop-back LB role.)
2015 was Jones’ best season; he recorded 29 tackles (15 solo, 14 assists), two sacks and an interception. And Steelers fans will probably remember the big role he played in the most recent playoff game against the Bengals, where he forced a crucial fumble that helped Pittsburgh win the game. Last season, Jones was part of a pass-rush rotation that included Harrison, Arthur Moats, Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo, and that group potentially got even more crowded when Pittsburgh drafted Washington linebacker Travis Feeney in the sixth round of this year’s draft.
The Steelers do still retain the right to negotiate a long-term deal with Jones this season.