Dallas Cowboys’ star cornerback Byron Jones is set to hit the free-agent market in his physical prime at only 27 years old with an All-Pro nod on his resume.
Letting a player of Jones’ caliber at such an important position walk is senseless. With Dallas looking to pay other top players on the roster, including quarterback Dak Prescott, Jones will soon be the treasure of another team.
His market value likely lies somewhere between $16-17 million average per year, considering Xavien Howard earned a $15 million APY extension last season. This would make him the highest-paid cornerback in the league, and whether you believe that he is deserving of that label or not, that is the price tag he will command.
The teams in play for Jones are going to have to be aggressive and outbid others in this hotly-contested pursuit. Three teams in particular — the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts — all make sense as potential suitors. As a result, here’s what each team’s potential sales pitch would look like when we reach the new league year on March 18.
With $45 million in projected cap space for free agency, general manager Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles’ front office could do some serious damage on the open market. Roseman has consistently been one of the most aggressive decision-makers across the league — never shy of upgrading his team despite a heavy price tag. The most likely area due for an upgrade this offseason? The secondary. Giving up big plays in the back end was the team’s Achilles heel in 2019, and when injuries started to pile up, there was no depth on the roster to replace production. In fact, you could argue Philadelphia had the worst cornerback group last year.
Enter Jones: the star boundary cornerback from the rival Cowboys. What a move it would be for Roseman to land Jones and instantly upgrade the team’s biggest sore spot. But why should Jones pick Philadelphia over other teams?
The Eagles’ biggest pitch to Jones is that this deal is not just about being the highest-paid cornerback in the league, it’s about playing the team that didn’t believe in your playmaking upside to give you a second contract. It’s the added emotional factor of proving the Cowboys’ front office wrong and playing them twice each year for the next several seasons. If that means anything to Jones, the Eagles could be a serious contender in this sweepstakes.
The Dolphins are armed with the most projected cap space in the NFL — about $94 million — and ready to hit the full reset button heading into free agency. Cornerback is a sore spot on the roster that is in desperate need of upgrades. When Howard got hurt, the depth of that unit was absolutely exposed. So bringing in a player like Jones, no matter the cost, makes a lot of sense. Not only would it give Miami arguably the top cornerback duo in the league, but it would also provide the Dolphins a safety net they didn’t have last year.
The biggest sales pitch Miami has in this race is that it has the ammunition to outbid any team in the league. If Jones wants the most money possible, the Dolphins are the safest bet to bid the highest. It’s that simple.
In addition, Miami can also sell him on being the locker room leader and voice for this team as the face of the defense. Jones was not in a leadership role in Dallas, but his personality naturally equips him for that kind of position.
The Colts also make a lot of sense as a potential suitor for Jones. The team only trails Miami in cap space for the new league year with a projected total of $86 million. If there is a bidding war to be had, you can be sure the Colts would be right in the middle of it, especially if they are interested in Jones.
Looking at their roster, I have reason to believe they will be.
Pierre Desir is a solid player, but outside of him on the boundary, there are a lot of question marks, including Quincy Wilson and Rock Ya-Sin — a player who had a steep learning curve in his rookie season. Kenny Moore is another solid piece in that secondary, but his best fit is undoubtedly inside. That leaves room for upgrades, and Jones would instantly boost the coverage profile of that group.
I love this fit a lot because it truly makes sense for both sides. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus was one of the driving forces in drafting Jones to Dallas when he was coming out of college. As the defensive passing game coordinator with the Cowboys, Eberflus played an instrumental role in helping develop Jones into the player he has now become.
Obviously Jones would have to be paid top money by any team looking to bring him in, but this Eberflus connection back in Dallas could be the X-factor that brings Jones to Lucas Oil Stadium in 2020.