The days of Byron Jones having only ever played professional football for the Dallas Cowboys are likely down to the single digits as free agency officially begins next week. It’s almost certain that Jones will be playing elsewhere in 2020 and beyond. He is regarded as the best cornerback on the market and the Cowboys have the great problem of also having the best quarterback and wide receiver out there as well. It is the best type of problem to have, really.
Wherever Byron Jones ultimately lands, that team’s fanbase will likely feature people that harp on the fact that the cornerback only has two career interceptions. This is a point that many have used against Jones in the past, but they also ignore the other things about his game. You know, the elite ones.
Five things Byron Jones doesn't do very often:— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) March 11, 2020
1. Get interceptions
2. Allow separation
3. Allow the ball to be caught
4. Commit pass interference penalties
5. Give up touchdowns
People harp on #1 to argue he's not elite, while totally forgetting about 2-5.
Interceptions matter, don’t get it wrong. Ideally your top cornerback would have a lot of them. Turnovers swing games so you want to produce them, but you also want to play great defense. Byron Jones is absolutely a great defender.
It seems as if NFL teams know the truth about Jones and that they also know that other squads know it. According to a report from NFL.com on Wednesday, there are teams that are expecting him to become the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history.
Byron Jones isn’t a huge name outside of Dallas, thanks in part to just two career interceptions. But teams expect the versatile former first-round pick to command $16 million to $18 million a year in free agency, making him the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history. Fellow cornerbacks James Bradberry (Panthers) and Trae Waynes (Vikings) also figure to land upwards of $12 million per year, and may well end up closer to $16 million. With John Elway announcing he’ll franchise tag Justin Simmons if the Broncos can’t work out a long-term deal, Anthony Harris (Vikings) is in line to be the top safety on the market and could push $14 million a year. Vonn Bell (Saints), Jimmie Ward (49ers) and Devin McCourty (Patriots) should all make out well, too.
A deal between $16M and $18M per year (which is where it is reportedly going to start) is definitely too rich for the currently-needing-to-pay-Dak-and-Amari Cowboys as it is an awfully large amount of money.
The Cowboys have been in the business, no pun intended, of paying big deals to players that have earned them in recent memory. DeMarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Elliott got their extensions a year ago, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper are up next in turn, although it remains to be seen if and when they will have long-term deals with the team.