The Washington Redskins said that Jones died of natural causes at his home in Southern California on Monday night.
"Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history. Off the field, he was a true giant," said Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, whose father, George, coached Jones with the Los Angeles Rams. "His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him. He was cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother."
Jones was the leader of the Rams' Fearsome Foursome unit from 1961-71 and then played for San Diego for two seasons before finishing his career with the Redskins in 1974. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and made the league's 75th anniversary all-time squad.
Because sacks didn't become an official statistic until 1982, Jones' total is uncertain. His impact as a premier pass rusher and team leader is not.
Jones made the Pro Bowl every year from 1964-70 and played in eight overall. He combined with fellow Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Landry on the defensive line that, at times, was unblockable.
George Allen, who coached the Fearsome Foursome, called Jones the "greatest defensive end of modern football." The Allen family had Jones present George Allen for his Hall of Fame induction in 2002.
The Rams' stats show Jones with 159 1-2 sacks for them and 173 1-2 for his career — all unofficial, of course. Jones also was one of the most durable players, missing just five games in his 14 pro seasons.
A 14th-round draft pick in 1961 out of Mississippi Valley State University, which later produced Jerry Rice, Jones was the first defensive lineman with 100 solo tackles, reaching that mark in 1967.
Most recently, he was the CEO of his own foundation, which he began in 1997. He also made several trips to visit troops on active duty in the Middle East.
The Deacon Jones Foundation helps inner-city youth develop leadership skills through community service and offers scholarship and mentoring programs. "Coming from a poor, inner-city neighborhood myself, I have an intimate knowledge of all of the problems people face there. It's not just the inability to afford a good education that is a problem. Inner-city kids have to be prepared for college in every sense. For instance, kids from Beverly Hills grow up hearing about the stock market and real estate deals over the dinner table. When kids from the ghetto enter college and the workplace, they don't know a thing about what they hear. And they are never told exactly what their commitment to their own neighborhoods must be," says the mission statement by Deacon Jones.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.