Kwon Alexander just reset the market for inside linebackers in the NFL. The former LSU man is heading to the San Francisco 49ers on a 4 year/$54 million deal, including $27 million guaranteed.
The contract makes Alexander the highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL based on annual salary average ($13.5 million), surpassing Carolina’s Luke Kuechly ($12.4 million). That’s very good news for Deion Jones, who is already working on a contract extension with the Falcons.
Alexander and Jones each made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and each played in just six games in 2018, with Kwon registering more tackles for loss and QB hits over the past two seasons and Debo registering more tackles, interceptions and passes defensed.
Jones has proven to be a superior linebacker to Alexander (Kwon had a better 2016, but the numbers skew in Deion’s favor since then), especially in coverage, and he will get paid as such when the extension does get worked out.
Last season, Deion Jones was ranked the 14th best LB by PFF (among players who played at least 350 snaps) with a grade of 75.8, while Alexander was ranked the 58th best LB (among players who played at least 350 snaps) with a grade of 59.1.
It’s the nature of the market — a player up for extension will always demand to be paid the most at his position when his skillset is comparable to the elites at that position. It’s why Aaron Rodgers waited for Matt Ryan’s extension to get done last season, and why Grady Jarrett is reportedly demanding “Aaron Donald money” right now. The 49ers did Atlanta no favors by making Kwon Alexander the (temporarily) highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL.
There’s no way around it — this Alexander deal sets a new floor for Jones’ extension, and now likely bumps his pay up from what it theoretically would have been a few days ago. When C.J. Mosley gets his next deal, it’s only going to get more expensive to keep Jones around.