It’s long been speculated that the Dallas Cowboys would part ways with Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Byron Jones as he seeks to become one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL. However, there’s been hope that the Cowboys would find a way to make his contract work even with the big money that they’re expected to pay out this offseason to Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.
About a month ago, new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan shared an anecdote he’d once heard from former Cowboys Quarterback Troy Aikman that insinuated cornerbacks who don’t create turnovers aren’t all that valuable. It doesn’t take much of a reach to connect those comments to Byron Jones who has only two interceptions and three forced fumbles through his first five seasons in the NFL. Nevermind he’s been one of the best cover corners in the NFL the last two seasons.
Speaking to the media at the NFL’s Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones spoke on the pending free agency of their Pro Bowl cornerback.
“Byron’s a guy we think a lot of. He’s had a great run at corner, he’s played really well, played at a high level. That’s the hard thing when you have quite a few good players on your football team, is you get challenges. I know Byron understands that, but at the same time he’s worried about Byron and he should be. Certainly, we’ll continue, we’ll visit with his guys while we’re here, kind of see their direction and what they’re thinking and we’ll have to keep moving.”
Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones via David Helman
On the surface those comments are innocuous. There’s not a lot to them. Given what we heard from Mike Nolan a month ago and Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay the week before that, the writing’s on the wall for Byron Jones’ tenure with the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s a stark contrast to the way the Dallas Cowboys’ front office talks about their other big-name free agents Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, who they’ve consistently expressed confidence in reaching a deal with.
The Dallas Cowboys defense has a ton of holes on it with starter Robert Quinn, Maliek Collins, and Jeff Heath heading to free agency that they can’t afford to let Jones walk. Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis will be free agents next offseason which puts the onus on re-signing Byron Jones to a long-term contract.
Interceptions are an important aspect of playing cornerback in the NFL, but they aren’t everything. They matter, but so does covering wide receivers at a very high level, which Byron Jones does. He’s one of the best corners in the NFL and is about to get paid as such. Though much of their cap space will be allocated to Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and possibly Robert Quinn, there’s a way for the Dallas Cowboys to find enough room to make a Byron Jones contract work. They just have to want to.
The Dallas Cowboys don’t sound like a team that is committed to bringing back Byron Jones this offseason. It’s a shame to, because he’s been nothing but a team player for them since being drafted in the first round in the 2015 NFL Draft. He’s changed positions, moved into the slot to cover tight ends, and done it all at a high level and with a smile on his face.
It’s certainly possible that all these comments are negotiation tactics, but the reality is they sound more like an organization preparing the media and the fanbase for Byron Jones’ eventual departure in free agency.
John Williams from InsideTheStar.com takes a look at the Dallas Cowboys holes on the defensive side of the ball the Cowboys need to address this offseason then provides a three-round mock draft and takes a look at some free agent options the Cowboys could pursue.