The Cowboys have a consensus “Big 3” of free agents in 2020, and one of them is Cornerback Byron Jones. Can Dallas afford to lose its top CB, and how far should the team to either keep or replace Byron this offseason?
Not only is Jones a free agent this year but another trusted reserve, Anthony Brown, has also reached the end of his rookie contract.
2020 Cornerback Contract Statuses
- Free Agents
- Byron Jones (UFA)
- Anthony Brown (UFA)
- C.J. Goodwin (UFA)
UFA = Unrestricted
The debate about how good Byron Jones is or isn't compared to the elite NFL corners is for another day. But sometimes you can only go with the reality of the current year, and the bottom line is that Jones is the Cowboys' best CB and the top player at his position among other pending free agents in 2020.
Dallas spent a 1st-round pick in 2015 to acquire Byron, which would making losing him now a disappointment. Any player you spend that kind of draft capital on should ideally get a second contract, and hopefully never play for any other team.
Keeping Jones in 2020 wouldn't be so complicated if it wasn't for other free agents like Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Robert Quinn, and Randall Cobb pulling at the Cowboys' wallet. Dallas can still make whatever moves are necessary to retain all of these players, but having so many priority free agents at one time muddies the waters.
At bare minimum, Dallas will need to reach a long-term agreement with at least one of Prescott, Cooper, or Jones so that they can then use the franchise and transition tags on the other two. It remains to be seen how that will shake out
Unfortunately, all of this focus on Jones and other players is probably bad news for Anthony Brown. Unless he's desperate enough to take a sweetheart to remain with the Cowboys, it seems highly likely that Brown will spend 2020 on someone else's roster.
Assuming that they find a way to keep Byron Jones, Dallas will have their top three corners set with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis both signed for one more season. The Cowboys could then allow cheaper prospects like Donovan Olumba and Chris Westry to battle for the fourth spot.
Another option would be to fill the spot through the draft. With both Awuzie and Lewis free agents in 2021, drafting a new player to potentially replace one of them while providing immediate depth would be a shrewd move. It would also give Dallas some leverage if negotiations with Byron continue into the summer.
Jourdan Lewis is such an intriguing piece in this puzzle. For three years he's been arguably the best play-maker at CB but has been held down a bit by the previous coaching staff. Will the regime change in 2020 open up more playing time, perhaps even leading to Lewis starting over Awuzie?
Having these two young players under contract is a huge help to Dallas' offseason business. But still, neither Chido or Jourdan has shown enough to make you feel good about losing Byron Jones.
I doubt that happens. The Cowboys would loathe seeing a former 1st-round pick walk out the door, and especially one who has performed as well as Byron. They can and should find a way to keep him around, even it's just for one more year through the franchise or transition tag.
Clearly, 2020 is a big year for the cornerback position. Both the top player and one of the most reliable reserves are free agents and Dallas will likely have to make at least two moves to field a strong, deep group next season.