This is a big offseason for the Dallas Cowboys’ front office. Probably the most important offseason in years. They’ve got four key players — Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Robert Quinn, and Byron Jones — set to be free agents when the league year begins March 18th.
While it’s debatable where he should stand in the team’s list of priorities, Byron Jones is a player they can’t afford to lose given the group that would be left over at cornerback. Anthony Brown is also a free agent, which leaves Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis as the only holdovers from the 2019 season.
Last week, Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay spoke about Byron Jones and didn’t commit to bringing Jones back this offseason. Yesterday, speaking to the media for the first time, new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan spoke a bit about the cornerback position, creating more doubt about Jones returning to the Dallas Cowboys in 2020.
Mike Nolan shared a story Troy Aikman once told him while discussing ball hawks: “I’m not really concerned w/ throwing at a corner that I know is just gonna knock the ball down. I throw incompletions all the time. But when I throw at Deion, I gotta be concerned about (a Pick-6).
Though Byron Jones has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL since making the switch from safety in 2018, one criticism of his game is the lack of turnovers created compared to his contemporaries. It’s been a struggle, as Jones has only two interceptions since being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Byron Jones doesn’t get targeted very often, but these comments from Mike Nolan may indicate that Jones doesn’t have a future with the Dallas Cowboys given his inability to create turnovers. Getting interceptions isn’t the only thing that matters when playing cornerback, but it appears that Nolan and his defensive staff are going to put an emphasis on playing players who can take the ball away.
In combination with Will McClay’s thoughts on Jones from last week, the Dallas Cowboys could be laying the ground work for the departure of Byron Jones this offseason.
Cowboys DC Mike Nolan said he wants a swarming defense: “The No. 1 thing in winning football games is getting the ball for your offense. As a defense, that’s what we’ll strive to do all the time.
Nolan’s comments about the importance of creating turnovers is something we’ve heard before under Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard. However, there’s reason to believe that the Cowboys will be better in this department moving forward.
As opposed to the bend don’t break, minimal blitzing style we’ve seen under the Marinelli-Richard defense, Nolan will be bringing a more attacking style of defense focused on creating pressure. Nolan’s defense’s generally have very high blitz rates and they do a great job at creating turnovers.
It’s certainly possible that Byron Jones returns and finds his ability to take the ball away in a new scheme. We won’t get a clear indication of the Cowboys’ plans for Jones until we get closer to the start of the free agency period.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, it would be a mistake to let Byron Jones walk. With the lack of depth at cornerback, his ability, and the typical rookie transition period that takes place, the Cowboys would suffer a drop off in play from Jones to Jourdan Lewis or Anthony Brown if he returns.
A lot can change as the Cowboys dice further into the 2020 offseason, but reading between the lines of McClay and Nolan’s comments, you can’t help but wonder if Byron Jones will be with another team week one of the 2020 season. Only time will tell.