To sign Byron Jones or not to sign Byron Jones, that is the question. The Cowboys know that Jones will command a big-time contract in free agency and they are balancing their books with deals coming for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. Signing Jones to a huge, multi-year contract might not make the most sense for the organization financially. But if you don’t, how comfortable would the team be rolling out Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis as their top two corners?
They could always spend a high draft pick to replace Jones, the name of Kristian Fulton has been mocked to Dallas on numerous occasions. The Cowboys could also look to free agency.
Bleacher Report has an article naming who should be the top free agent target for each team. For the Cowboys, that name is a “replacement” for Byron Jones.
Dallas Cowboys: CB Trae Waynes
The Dallas Cowboys’ free-agent options won’t be plentiful since Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper’s potential re-signings are the organization’s top priorities.
If/when those deals are reached, Dallas can turn its attention to the secondary since Byron Jones is also a free agent and the top available cornerback on the market.
Theoretically, the Cowboys have the financial flexibility to afford Prescott, Cooper and Jones, but the emphasis on Jones may decrease since Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard are no longer running the defense.
Instead, Dallas can lean on Chidobe Awuzie as its top cover corner and go after another cornerback who will probably cost half of what Jones demands.
New Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy saw Trae Waynes quite a bit during his time in the NFC North. The 2015 first-round pick still struggles at times, but he’s physical against the run and flashes in coverage.
Waynes is a little bit of a polarizing figure in Minnesota. Not quite as polarizing as Xavier Rhodes, but Waynes has not become the lockdown corner that many thought he would when he was drafted in the first round (11th overall) on the 2015 draft.
Pro Football Focus has him listed as their 45th best free agent of 2020, and the fourth-highest rated cornerback (Byron Jones is the highest rated and #9 overall).
45. CB TRAE WAYNES
As a former first-round draft pick, Trae Waynes hasn’t become the star that the Minnesota Vikings would have been hoping for, but he has developed into a consistently viable starter who excels in the run game while showing enough glimpses of coverage ability to keep teams buying into his overall potential. Waynes has impressive speed, but he has never been able to consistently avoid getting beaten enough to rank among the better corners in the game. He’s given up 16 touchdowns over the last four seasons.
Waynes also ranks as the fourth best free agent CB and #38 overall free agent at NFL Trade Rumors.
But 2019 wasn’t Waynes best year, and he only avoided taking more heat because of the unbelievable drop-off in play from his running mate, Xavier Rhodes.
On the opposite side, Trae Waynes was far from a shutdown corner allowing a reception every 7.6 coverage snaps, the seventh-highest rate in the NFL. His catch rate of 72.6% wasn’t much better and he was prone to giving up big plays with 653 yards allowed and five touchdowns. These numbers might’ve been even bigger had he not missed two games.
What are the prospects for Waynes return to the Vikings in 2020? Well, the team is already over the cap and have a ton of free agents, but they may lose most of their secondary so Waynes may be one of their targets to keep.
If not for the presence of Rhodes, there may have been a lot more discussion about the play of Waynes in 2019. He was clearly the Vikings’ best corner, but the former No. 11 overall pick also seems to have plateaued short of stardom over the past few years. Assuming Rhodes is gone, Zimmer and the Vikings will likely want to re-sign Waynes, in order to not lose both of their starting corners. But given that he’ll be only 28 next season and has a lot of starting experience, he could get an offer from another team that the Vikings can’t afford to beat.
If the Cowboys could get Waynes for roughly half of what Byron Jones gets (as projected by the Bleacher Report article), would you be okay with that move? Or would you rather just bite the bullet and re-sign Jones? Or go to the draft for a replacement for Jones?