Raiders sign free agent LB Jones

The Raiders continued to address their defensive shortcomings, agreeing to terms with free agent linebacker Mike Jones on a one-year deal on Monday. Jones, who previously played for Oakland from 1991-96, is expected to join the crowded battle for the starting weakside linebacker position which has been vacant since Willie Thomas retired at the end of last season.

The signing of Jones, which should be completed in time for Jones to join the team for their mandatory three-day mini-camp later this week, is the latest in a long line of free agent moves the Raiders have made during the past three months designed to improve a defense that lost six starters from the unit that opened the 2001 season for Oakland. Unlike the signings of defensive tackle John Parella, linebacker Bill Romanowski and safety Rod Woodson, all of whom are expected to nail down starting jobs in training camp, the 33-year-old Jones will still have to show the Raiders he has some gas left in his tank.

Jones, who might best be remembered for making the game-saving tackle that secured the victory for the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, was released by St. Louis after four seasons in Missouri before signing on with Pittsburgh for one year. Jones failed to crack the starting rotation with the Steelers, even though they utilize a 3-4 defense which leans heavily on linebackers. Jones spent the entire 2001 season coming off the bench, recording just 13 tackles. He was released by the Steelers last week.

He'll be competing with veterans Gerald Dixon, Eric Barton, Travian Smith and Bobby Brooks for playing time. Barton took all of the snaps with Oakland's starting defense during the team's April mini-camp but he is far from a lock for the job.

Under terms of the deal Jones will earn $750,000 but only $475,000 of that will count against the Raiders salary cap.


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