The Denver Broncos have to ask themselves whether or not Dre’Mont Jones will be a member of the team in 2023 as he approaches becoming an unrestricted free agent on March 15. Between now and then the Broncos could either franchise tag him, extend him, or decide to let him walk.

Denver Broncos decision on Dre’Mont Jones approaching sooner rather than later

The NFL’s window to place the franchise tag on players who are set to become unrestricted free agents when the new league year comes around. March 15 is a key date to keep in the back of your head. At 2:00 p.m. MT on March 15, the new official league year kicks off — signaling the start of free agency.

Beginning today and extending through March 7 at 2:00 p.m. MT, the Broncos can place the franchise tag on Dre’Mont Jones, negotiate a contract extension with him prior to March 15, or simply decide that they will let him walk.

Jones is arguably the Broncos’ top unrestricted free agent this upcoming cycle and has made a strong case to be extended. He experienced his first season as a full-time starter at defensive end for the Broncos defense this season, starting and playing in 13 games this season, missing four due to a hip injury.

In Jones’ 13 games this past season, he accumulated 6.5 sacks and pressured opposing quarterbacks 16 times — registering 10 quarterback hits on top of that. He also tallied a career-high in tackles with 47 while playing 81% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2022.

The Broncos’ defensive lineman is one of the more integral pieces of the defense and makes them better. In a stacked AFC West, having a player like Jones who can create pressure from the outside or inside of the defensive interior is crucial. For Sean Payton, he’d benefit from having Jones on the roster long-term.

In the event the Broncos don’t act on extending Jones prior to March 7, they’ll have until 2:00 p.m. MT to franchise tag him — extending Denver’s room to negotiate a deal with him until July 15. The Broncos have experienced this several times in recent memory with Justin Simmons, Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas, etc before eventually working out a deal.

The franchise tag value for defensive end this season is $19.7M while the defensive tackle tag value sits at $18.9M, essentially costing teams more financially than it would to negotiate terms on a contract extension. If Denver tags Jones, there is no guarantee he’d play on the tag which many players have opted out of doing.

Considering the insecurity of playing on the tag, the risk isn’t worth it in the eyes of many players, and rightfully so. If a player gets injured while playing on the tag, they risk losing money and have no protection when it comes to their financial future.

Worst case scenario, if the Broncos do not work on an extension between now and March 7 and do not place the tag on Jones by the deadline — he’ll hit the open free agency market and Denver risks losing him to another team.