The Indianapolis Colts will be without one of their defensive cornerstones for four games at the start of the upcoming season, but they’ve become accustomed to playing without defensive tackle Arthur Jones in the past two years.
The sixth-year pro will miss the regular season’s first month without pay after violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, the league announced Friday.
Since Jones signed a five-year, $33-million contract with $10 million guaranteed to join the Colts in 2014, he’s started in just three of nine regular-season games played. He also started three playoff games after his first Colts season, which was limited by an ankle injury. Another ankle injury suffered in preseason required surgery and resulted in him sitting out 2015 on injured reserve.
Jones, 30, did not participate in recent offseason training activities as he continued to rehab, but he spoke with confidence about eventually being ready to play in the upcoming season.
Jones agreed to restructure his contract this offseason, which reduces his base salary $2 million to $2.5 million in 2016. The deal was structured to allow him to earn back the $2 million through playing and performance incentives.
A Sporting News analysis in February of the worst contracts for each NFL team chose Jones for the Colts. He was paid $16 million for the first two seasons, in which he amassed just 23 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the regular season. He also had 11 total tackles in the three playoff games.
The Colts’ replacement options aren’t exactly plentiful, considering second-year pro Henry Anderson is coming off knee surgery and might not be healthy enough to play at the beginning of the season. Anderson, a third-round pick a year ago, switched from his natural defensive end position to Jones’ defensive tackle spot in the Colts’ 3-4 scheme and started nine games last season before suffering his knee injury.
Rookie defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway was drafted in the fourth round, but will have to prove he’s NFL ready after the Colts report to Anderson University Tuesday for training camp.
Nose tackle Zach Kerr and second-year pro T.Y. McGill are more experienced options. Kerr, an undrafted addition in 2014, has played in 24 games with four starts and made 45 total tackles with three sacks. McGill, claimed off waivers from Seattle after final preseason cuts last season, played in 12 games as a rookie reserve and had 11 tackles including three sacks.
Jones is eligible to return to the Colts on Monday, Oct. 3, after the team makes a trip to London, England, to play the Jacksonville Jaguars the day before. He can participate in camp and preseason.
Should the Colts decide to cut their losses after this season, they would save $5.15 million in cap space. But he would count $2.2 million in dead cap money in 2017 and another $1.1 million in 2018.
Two Jones brothers have had similar issues. Jon Jones, a UFC fighter, was recently removed from a light heavyweight championship bout after he tested positive for two substances banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Defensive end Chandler Jones was hospitalized in January after having a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana. He wasn’t suspended because the substance was not illegal by league standards, but New England traded him to Arizona this offseason.
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