We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.
2019 in review
Byron Jones did not have a standout season when looking at the stats from 2019. He finished the year with 46 tackles, 37 of them being solo tackles, and one forced fumble in 15 games. Jones did not record an interception in 2019. In fact, Jones has only two interceptions since his NFL debut in 2015, and has failed to record an interception in his last 40 starts. Despite what one might presume from the stat book alone, Jones is a highly regarded cornerback and is ranked 13th in Pro Football Talk’s list of the top 100 free agents. He is the second ranked cornerback on that list. Jones also comes with versatility, as he began his career as a safety. He is expected to garner offers of around $15 million for the 2020 season.
A reliable cornerback is hard to come by these days, so Jones is likely to receive plenty of interest from multiple NFL teams once he hits the market during free agency. Despite the likely widespread interest, there are a few teams that really stand out as possible landing spots for Jones.
NFC East rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, have had woes in their secondary for some time, as they can’t seem to hit on any of the cornerbacks they land, whether it be via free agency, trades, or the draft. Fans and coaches alike have acknowledged that this is a glaring weakness and one that the Eagles will look to improve upon as a top priority in 2020.
There has been some speculation that the Colts will show interest in Jones as well, as they could certainly use an addition of some veteran talent to their secondary. The Colts have two young cornerbacks in the mix at the moment, who may benefit from a mentor with experience. While they could certainly benefit from Jones’ service, some feel they may shy away from the Jones’ high price tag.
There is a strong chance that the Broncos may lose Chris Harris in free agency, which would leave them with a sizeable hole in their defense. Perhaps Jones would be able to fill the shoes of Harris as the shutdown corner that the team needs.
There may be another NFC East team to contend with the Eagles in seeking the services of Byron Jones. With the departure of Josh Norman, and reports that James Bradberry has requested a trade, Washington may be in search of a cornerback to fill these voids next season. They have plenty of cap space and would likely be more than happy to take Jones off the hands of their division rivals.
Do the Cowboys want to keep him?
While the Cowboys certainly want to keep Jones, the reality is that they are highly unlikely to be able to do so. After giving up a big contract to Ezekiel Elliot in 2019, the Cowboys are likely on the hook to do the same for star QB Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper in 2020. PFT discusses how once these three deals are in place, the Cowboys are going to be looking at a significantly diminished salary cap and are unlikely to be able to afford Jones’ high price tag.
While Jones is a great NFL cornerback and is certainly an asset to any team’s defense, historically he has not provided significant value as an IDP. He has only two interceptions and one touchdown in his entire five year NFL career. He averaged a meager 3.1 fantasy points per game last season. There is a chance that he sees a bump in value once plugged into a new defensive scheme, but odds are he is not a top target for your leagues that feature an IDP.
February 28: The Cowboys are expected to meet with Jones’ representatives on Friday, per Calvin Watkins. Owner/GM Jerry Jones said on Thursday that it is not a given that Jones has priced himself off the Cowboys roster, according to Pro Football Talk.