SANTA CLARA -- Free agency should result in more long-term security for 49ers nose tackle D.J. Jones this time around.
Jones signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract in the offseason to return to the 49ers at a time when the NFL’s salary cap dropped by more than $17 million per team.
Teams will have a lot more dollars to spend next year, as the cap is expected to rise by more than $25 million. That should set up Jones to cash in with a multi-year contract after his breakout season.
As a five-year NFL veteran, Jones is scheduled for unrestricted free agency. He could rate as the 49ers' top priority to re-sign in the offseason.
Teammate Fred Warner gained an even-greater appreciation for Jones after watching him from the sideline in the 49ers’ Week 13 game against the Seattle Seahawks.
“It’s kind of hard to see when you’re in a game and you’re playing off of him,” said Warner, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. “But watching from the sideline this past weekend … whew, that dude is making some money. I’ll say that.
“He’s balling. He’s balling out of his mind right now, and we need it. We need it big time for this defense, for this team. He’s playing insane, he’s just got to keep it going and keep getting better.”
Jones has started all 12 games for the 49ers this season. He already has a career-best 42 tackles, including seven for losses, along with two forced fumbles.
Jones produced one of the team’s best plays of the season when he made an open-field tackle of Los Angeles Rams tight end Kendall Blanton to thwart a fake field-goal attempt in a key victory in Week 10.
Jones, listed at 6-foot, 305 pounds, has athleticism and uncommon strength that Warner rates alongside teammates Trent Williams and Nick Bosa.
“Some guys can go bench whatever amount of weight in the weight room and then you get on the field and it doesn’t translate,” Warner said. “He has football strength where he’s literally moving grown men and manhandling them.”