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Originally published May 30, 2012 at 8:02 PM | Page modified May 30, 2012 at 11:44 PM

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Seahawks' Jason Jones follows team's free-agent blueprint

Defensive lineman signs for one-year, $4.5 million, but hopes to play way to bigger payday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON — Jason Jones primarily played basketball in high school, and as a power forward he understands the importance of rebounding.

That's good because the defensive lineman signed a one-year contract with Seattle hoping for a bounce-back year.

"That's the mind frame going into it," Jones said. "Last year was kind of an off year for me."

A second-round draft choice by Tennessee in 2008, Jones entered the league as a defensive tackle, but moved to end out of necessity last year and finished with three sacks, the fewest in any of his four NFL seasons.

He became the first free agent Seattle signed from another team this year. Jones is someone the Seahawks believe will boost their pass rush, and the one-year contract worth a guaranteed $4.5 million is significant.

The Seahawks are following the blueprint that worked so well with Alan Branch a year ago while Jones is following his belief that he will play his way to a bigger payday in 2013.

"That one-year deal is kind of the strategy for next year," Jones said. "Hopefully I can get a long-term deal."

This isn't the way free-agent contracts usually work in the NFL, where signing bonuses and guaranteed totals are superglued together into large, puzzling packages that make it hard to know how long a guy is going to stick around.

Shaun Alexander signed a six-year, $82 million contract in 2006. He was cut two years later, receiving less than one-third of that total.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh signed a five-year deal with Seattle in 2009. He played one season.

Jones' deal is much more straight forward.

He's not playing for peanuts this year, but he is playing with the carrot of another crack at the free-agent market just around the corner.

Over the past few years, the Seahawks have specialized in these kind of short-term investments, looking for players who were once highly-regarded draft choices who never truly blossomed with the team that chose them.

Some of those deals worked out.

Branch started three games in the four seasons after the Arizona Cardinals selected him in the second round. He started 15 games and had three sacks for Seattle last year after signing a two-year deal with the Seahawks.

Others haven't.

Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst returned to San Diego this year after failing to show he could be a starter in his two years as a Seahawk.

Jones' deal is even shorter than that, and he's walking into a situation where he can make an immediate impact as a pass rusher. At 6 feet 5, Jones was a high-school basketball player who turned out for football for the first time in 11th grade. Eastern Michigan was the only college to offer him a football scholarship, and after an early dalliance at tight end, he became a promising defensive lineman who wound up a second-round choice of the Titans.

He is 276 pounds, which makes him slight on a defensive line that starts three players who weigh more than 310 pounds. He'll have an opportunity to provide the kind of third-down pass rush that was missing in Seattle last year.

And as he prepares for his first season for his second team, Jones was asked how he looks at his career so far.

"It's had its ups and it's definitely had its downs, as far as injuries," he said. "But, right now, I'm keeping a positive mind frame and I'm out here just to work."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @dannyoneil.

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