Byron Jones to be a free agent 2020: Top landing spots, projected contract, latest updates, rumors and more


Every NFL team has its own list of in-house free agents to sort through, but there are 30 players waiting for either an offer or a goodbye from the Dallas Cowboys this offseason. That’s no small feat for owner Jerry Jones and Co., but the reality is they’re not looking to retain every single one. They are, however, all-in on keeping quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper secured for 2020 and beyond, but cornerback Byron Jones finds himself the odd man out in their equation — for several reasons.

It’s not that the Cowboys can’t afford to set the market with Jones, but instead their refusal to do so. With a windfall in cap savings that could go upwards of $100 million, there’s enough pie to pay Prescott, Cooper, Jones and other key talents like Robert Quinn and Randall Cobb all without batting an eye. For Jones, the team’s former first-round pick, it’s about how he views his value to the team versus how they view it, and there’s a bit of a disconnect between those two things.

The Cowboys know Jones is an elite corner, but feel someone like Quinn — i.e., a pass rush specialist — is much more difficult to replace and less expensive to keep. Other clubs are thankful to see the Cowboys let Jones hit the open market, a move seen as a mistake by many, and once he does — he’ll have no shortage of suitors.

After all, All-Pro cover corners who also happen to be under the age of 28 don’t simply fall from the sky.

Top landing spots for Jones

While there’s still a minute possibility the Cowboys change their mind and offer Jones money he won’t get elsewhere, don’t expect it to happen. You have better odds of choosing the winning lottery numbers while holding lightning in a bottle gifted to you by a leprechaun. As such, the Cowboys are far from a top potential landing spot for Jones, but their rivals aren’t. The Philadelphia Eagles are in dire need of a shutdown corner, as evidenced in how fractured and unproductive the unit was in 2019. Sources confirmed to CBS Sports in early February that general manager Howie Roseman was hoping Jones wouldn’t be tagged so he can take a home run swing at him, and that’s exactly what’s expected to occur when legal tampering begins on March 16.

While Jones won’t be the only veteran cornerback on the market, he’s arguably the best of the bunch, even if he lacks the interception count of others. A change of scheme will likely see that change for the uber-athletic Jones and the Eagles should be prepared for stiff competition once teams are allowed to begin making offers. Their top challengers will be the Las Vegas Raiders — who would love to tandem Jones with a safety unit that includes Johnathan Abram and Erik Harris — and another NFC East rival in the New York Giants.

  1. Eagles
  2. Raiders
  3. Broncos
  4. Redskins
  5. Giants

Honorable Mention: Texans, Colts

The Giants haven’t enjoyed a dominant secondary in quite a while, and have recently been ravaged by both free agency and their decision to simply cut ties with once premier players like Janoris Jenkins. Then there’s the familiarity of Jason Garrett in New York, Jones’ longtime head coach in Dallas, and a separate source tells CBS Sports Garrett is expected to nudge Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman in Jones’ direction. It’ll likely be a close race between the Giants and Broncos though, considering the latter is willing to let Chris Harris test the free agency waters and are also eyeing Jones as a possible, longer-termed replacement. 

That could drive them to lob a larger offer than the Giants would, although it shouldn’t because the Giants arguably need him more. 

This list could easily be 10 teams long — a testament to the demand Jones will invoke — and I’d be remiss to not include the third Cowboys rival in a CB-needy Washington Redskins and the Houston Texans, who could both use Jones and wouldn’t mind keeping him away from Matt Eberflus and the Indianapolis Colts (Eberflus having spent several years with Jones in Dallas). 

It’s a very obvious goodbye between Jones and the Cowboys, but his bank account won’t be upset with the decision.

Projected market value for Jones in free agency

So how much will Jones cost? How astute of you to ask.

At best, a source tells CBS Sports the Cowboys were prepared to go no higher than $13 million per year for Jones, and even that was a stretch — as odd as it sounds — given their cap situation. That won’t cut it for a player with a projected market value of $14.1 million annually, per Spotrac, and the contract Jones lands will likely be far above that floor. Some will point at his lack of interceptions as a reason to not pay him the market price, but Jones was also one of the highest-graded players in coverage in 2019 (according to Pro Football Focus) and allowed fewer yards when targeted than every other cornerback in the league except Richard Sherman.

That is why he’s worth big money, along with the fact the majority of his new contract will have been played before he hits the wrong side of 30, and in how he’s missed only one game in his entire five-year career — in a league where teams are desperate to locate top cornerbacks to stop pass-happy offenses and defensive backs are often sidelined with various lower-body injuries.

Projection: Four years, $64.5 million, $49 million guaranteed

Scouting report on Jones (pros and cons):

Pros:

  • Rare athletic talent/Combine record-setter
  • Extreme football IQ
  • Elite cover corner
  • Ability to flex multiple positions
  • Durability
  • No NFL suspensions on record

Cons

Latest rumors and reports:

Welcome to the tracker for all things Byron Jones, from rumors to sourced reports by CBS Sports. As you can readily see, there will be a market for the Jones and the Cowboys have no interest in leaping into a bidding war to keep him. That means they will likely part ways in 2020, as expected, and a new era will begin in two teams’ secondary going forward: 

The Cowboys and whoever signs Jones. 

Eagles to aggressively pursue top-tier CBs in 2020 free agency

Saturday, Feb. 29: As noted above, there will be a strong list of suitors in pursuit of Jones, but none are expected to be as aggressive as the Eagles. If Jones truly wants to avenge the lack of value he feels the Cowboys placed upon him, he couldn’t choose a better way to do it than to both set the market and suit up for a club they’ll see at least twice a year, every year. The fact he knows every single tendency of Dak Prescott also doesn’t hurt.

How new CBA would impact Cowboys talks with Byron Jones

Friday, Feb. 21: The initial plan for the Cowboys was to extend Prescott and have a tag available for both Cooper and possibly Jones, but with a new CBA potentially landing soon, they’ll only have one tag to use in 2020. That will go to either Prescott or Cooper — whoever doesn’t agree to a deal first ahead of the March 12 deadline — leaving Jones out in the cold. He won’t be cold for long though, because his market is white-hot. 

Byron Jones to command around $16M per year, Eagles to be top suitors

Tuesday, Feb. 18: Jones’ market value alone is higher than what the Cowboys are willing to offer, but other teams will be more than happy to up the ante once they can legally give him a call on March 16. Expect Jones to land somewhere quickly in the first wave of free agency, with the City of Brotherly Love being the frontrunner to call itself his new home.

How Robert Quinn’s future and Byron Jones are tied together

Thursday, Jan. 23: Sources confirmed to CBS Sports in January that the fate of Jones was also tied to that of Quinn, and that the Cowboys valued the latter much more than the former. To that end, the team is ready to put an offer in from of Quinn that should keep him in Dallas while letting Jones pack up and leave, in what turned out to be a free agency tug-of-war between the two.





Source link