#31 Byron Jones
Byron Philip Jones was born in New Britain, Connecticut on September 26, 1992. Jones is a versatile defensive back who has played both cornerback and safety in the NFL. He played collegiately at the University of Connecticut before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Byron Jones put together quite an impressive resume during his high school career and excelled in several different sports.
While attending St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, Connecticut, Jones played basketball, football, and competed in track and field.
Jones was one of the state’s top performers in the 200-meter and 400-meter. At the 2010 NVL Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Jones earned first place in both the 200-meter and 400-meter with times of 22.13 seconds and 48.43 seconds, respectively.
It was on the football field where Byron really made his mark in high school. Jones was named to the Class MM All-State team by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association and First Team All-Naugatuck Valley as a senior. He was also named team captain as a senior and helped his team advance to the MM state playoffs.
Coming out of high school, Byron Jones was considered a two-star recruit by Rivals.com and ended up accepting a football scholarship from the University of Connecticut.
Byron Jones made 37 starts in 43 career games at safety and cornerback for the Huskies during his collegiate career.
Jones red-shirted in 2010, but still was awarded the Special Teams Scout Player of the Week before the Syracuse game on November 20, 2010.
In the 2011 season, Byron Jones started a total of eight games and six of the final seven games of the season. He ended up sixth on the team in tackles with 51 and had a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown against USF, in which he earned the honors of being named BIG EAST Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
Jones started all 12 games at safety in 2012 and was the third leading tackler on the team with 88 tackles. Jones had one interception in the 2012 season and his best game came against Temple when he had a career-high 13 tackles.
In 2013, he started all 12 games at cornerback after converting from the safety position. Byron Jones ended up finishing fourth on the team with 60 tackles and had a team-high three interceptions. He was also named to the 2013 American Athletic Conference All-Academic team.
As a senior in 2014, Byron Jones started the first seven games of the season at cornerback before a season-ending shoulder injury cut his year short. Before his season was cut short, Jones recorded 24 tackles, two interceptions, and four pass breakups. One of his interceptions he returned 70 yards for a touchdown against USF.
2015 NFL Draft
Byron Jones took full advantage of his opportunity to compete at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. He set the world on fire by being a top performer in nearly every event, despite still recovering from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the final six games of his senior season.
Jones was a top performer in the vertical jump (44.5 inches), the 3 cone drill (6.78 seconds), 20 yard shuffle (3.94 seconds), and 60 yard shuffle (10.98 seconds); but it was the broad jump that really caught everyone’s attention.
Jones set the unofficial world record for the broad jump – or standing long jump – by jumping 12’3”.
It was Jones’ performance at the NFL Scouting Combine that caused a lot of so-called draft experts to have to go back and review his college game tape in order to get a better idea of exactly the type of football player he was. Was he just a workout wonder or was he truly a physically gifted athletic football player?
Byron Jones was arguably one of the most talked about draft prospects entering the 2015 NFL Draft after the show he put on at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Many draft analysts had Jones slotted anywhere from a late first-round draft pick to an early second round draft pick.
The Dallas Cowboys decided to use their 27th pick overall to draft the versatile defensive back out of the University of Connecticut, despite defensive end Randy Gregory still on the board, who a lot of people considered a top 10 talent.
Luckily for the Cowboys though, Gregory was still available on the second round and the organization didn’t hesitate to write his name on a draft card and make him a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Byron Jones’ versatility to play several different positions in the Cowboys secondary was something they simply couldn’t pass up and was ultimately the deciding factor to make him a member of the organization for years to come.
Byron Jones had a lot thrown at him his first year in the NFL, and he performed admirably for the Dallas Cowboys defense.
The attribute that convinced the Cowboys into drafting Jones in the first place was his versatility and that versatility was on full display throughout his rookie season.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had Jones play nearly every position in the secondary. Byron Jones played as an outside cornerback, in the slot, safety, and even a little dime linebacker when the Cowboys defense was in the nickel package.
The Cowboys couldn’t have been more pleased with Jones’ performance in his first year. He made 11 starts in the Cowboys secondary in 2015, but the majority of the starts came at the safety position (7). He was credited with 66 tackles and nine pass deflections, but failed to record an interception.
Jones did, however, have his rookie mistakes and his first game to start at cornerback for an injured Morris Claiborne against the Miami Dolphins provided evidence enough. He gave up a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills before he left the game with an ankle injury.
Byron Jones rebounded in his second start at cornerback against the Carolina Panthers when he made two key goal line plays to prevent a touchdown before the half ended.
Jones remained relatively healthy throughout his rookie season, but he did have a scary moment against the New York Jets when he suffered a dislocated knee while tackling wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. Fortunately, he was able to pop it back in and finish the ball game, playing 71 total snaps.
The Dallas Cowboys are expecting big things from him in 2016 as their starting free safety.
The total value of Byron Jones’ rookie contract is $8,601,938. Jones will make an average of $2,150,485 per season and is fully guaranteed $6,993,947. This makes Jones the 63rd highest paid cornerback in the NFL.
Jones is entering the second year of his rookie contract and will have a cap hit of $1,954,986 in 2016, $2,345,983 in 2017, and $2,736,980 in 2018. The Dallas Cowboys will then have to decide if they want to offer him a long-term contract or pick up his fifth year option.
Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp
While most fans are hoping the Cowboys snag a different safety who played his football in the state of Washington, Huskies safety Taylor Rapp should be towards the top of their draft targets on day two.
The Cowboys have some decisions to make when it comes to their back-end, particularly at safety. Do they want to pursue a full time strong safety type who can play in the box, allowing Xavier Woods to play solely as the centerfield free safety? Or would they rather add a hybrid safety who can play in that deep third role, giving their defense more flexibility in how they utilize Woods moving forward?
If their answer to this question is to go with a more traditional strong safety, and slot Woods into one permanent role, then Washington's Taylor Rapp could be the right man in this draft class.
Taylor Rapp is not the single-high safety that I would typically value high in an NFL draft. He lacks the range to really play that centerfield role, and doesn't have the speed or agility to project to this role in the NFL. No one ever gets behind him, but that's more due to ridiculously deep alignment than excellent coverage skills.
Where Rapp does excel, though, is playing forward and downhill. Rapp is aggressive both in his pursuit of plays and in his tackling. He tackles with good technique as well, and can absolutely lay the wood when coming up to hit receivers over the middle. Rapp plays how you'd expect your old-school strong safety to play, and projects as a split-zone and box safety at the next level.
Rapp isn't anything special in man coverage, but he executes well at times. He's at his best when asked to cover tight ends in man coverage, something which would certainly be valued both in today's NFL and on this version of the Cowboys' defense. I wouldn't be as comfortable lining him up against shifty slot receivers over the middle, but he can match up well physically with tight ends in man.
Overall, Rapp is one of the best tacklers I've seen in this draft class so far, and with his instincts, size and physicality he will serve as a solid strong safety at the next level.
I don't see Taylor Rapp as the typical versatile chess-piece the Cowboys have valued when drafting defensive backs in recent years. He does what he does well, but they would be ill-advised to mess with his alignment too often or try to make him fit into a different role. He's not going to move all over the field like Xavier Woods can, but he can certainly fit the Cowboys' current need for a strong safety.
Many fans want the Cowboys to pursue Landon Collins in free agency, but if they strike out there, Rapp could be their consolation prize in the NFL draft.
No, he's not as good as Landon Collins. Let me make that perfectly clear. But for a day two pick Rapp could fit a similar role to what Collins would here in Dallas: a strong safety who will play primarily in the box and cover tight ends in man.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals
The free agency period in the NFL will be here in a little more than three weeks and the Dallas Cowboys will begin the annual tradition of trying to put together the best 53-man roster that they can come up with. Free agency is just one part of the equation that includes the draft, the signing of undrafted free agents, adding and subtracting from the roster during training camp, and picking up players after the final cut down day.
You can rest assured that Will McClay and the entire pro scouting department is doing their due diligence in anticipation of the March 13th start to the 2019 free agency period. They'll look high and low for players that can come in and be contributors for the Cowboys. Even within their own division.
Between the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins, there are some interesting names to consider as the Cowboys peruse the free agent aisles of the NFL superstore. Some of those players like Landon Collins, Ronald Darby, Nick Foles, and Brandon Graham will be new releases that will cost you a pretty penny at the check out stand. Others like Haloti Ngata will be in the used and refurbished section. And then there are those who could be had at a reasonable or discounted rate.
Here are three from within the NFC East that the Cowboys could have their eye on.
Mario Edwards, Defensive Line, New York Giants
The former Oakland Raiders second round pick out of Florida State University has already played for two teams in his young four-year career. That isn't a good sign for Mario Edwards as he approaches free agency for the first time. You don't generally see many top 100 picks get released from the team that originally drafted as they usually wait as long as they can to see if the player is going to hit.
For Mario Edwards, he found himself caught in a numbers game and outplayed by two rookies in Oakland's training camp in 2018, leading to his release. It also sounds like the Raiders couldn't quite figure out where to put him on their defensive line.
We know that the Dallas Cowboys love looking around the league for those reclamation projects. Edwards could be the next David Irving or Antwaun Woods. A player that isn't highly thought of, but in the right situation and with the right coaching could flourish.
Edwards has played 14 or more games in three of his first four seasons, missing his second season with a hip injury. He totaled more than two sacks a season in those three seasons. He isn't by any stretch of the imagination someone who is going to come in and replace DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory, but he could be a nice depth piece with potential to see significant snaps both at defensive end and 3-technique defensive tackle.
Edwards could be the next Rod Marinelli special.
Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
The Dallas Cowboys could be in the market for a slot wide receiver this offseason if Cole Beasley is allowed to walk in free agency, which seems like a near certainty. There are several intriguing options on the roster in Allen Hurns and Cedric Wilson that could play in the slot some, or play on the outside allowing Amari Cooper to play in the slot. They could also look to the draft for Beasley's replacement as well. In the free agent pool, there are several interesting names, one of which is Jordan Matthews.
Jordan Matthews just finished his second stint in Philadelphia and while he didn't have huge production in Philly in 2018 -- 20 receptions on 28 targets for 300 yards and two touchdowns, he's a player with a track record in the NFL and could be a "big slot" option.
In Matthews first three seasons in the NFL, he averaged 75 receptions on 115 targets for 891 yards and 6.3 touchdowns in his first stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2014, Matthews caught 64 of his 67 receptions from the slot, which was second in the NFL that season. In 2015, he led the NFL in receptions from the slot with 81, while also scoring eight touchdowns. In 2016, his final year with the Eagles, he was ninth in the NFL with 53 receptions. So, in those first three seasons in the league, he averaged 67 receptions, 796.3 yards, and six touchdowns. He caught eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons for the Eagles in the slot.
He's not the same player that Cole Beasley is, but he's a player that knows how to win in the slot and because of the past couple of years could be a cheaper option to try and replace Cole's production.
Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins
If Jordan Matthews is the inexpensive option for the Dallas Cowboys in the slot, Jamison Crowder would require paying a pretty penny. Spotrac.com estimates that Crowder could be worth $8 million per year over four years on the open market.
Interestingly enough, he's never been as productive as Cole Beasley or Jordan Matthews, but because of his age and his work the last couple of seasons, injuries not withstanding, he's seen in a more positive light than Matthews.
Crowder is cut from a similar cloth as Beasley. Smaller in stature and uses quickness and speed to win games. As Cowboys fans, we know all to well the effect that he has in game. Crowder, however, has never had more than 66 receptions in a season and has only scored more than three touchdowns once in his four seasons in the NFL; back in 2016 when he scored seven.
Crowder is coming off of an injury this season that limited him to just nine games, 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. In his three full seasons prior to 2018, Crowder averaged 64 receptions on 93 targets for 746 yards and four touchdowns.
If for some reason, his market comes in less than the $8 million per year that Spotrac.com is projecting, I'd be very interested in bringing Crowder to Dallas.
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Each of these guys offers something intriguing that the Dallas Cowboys could use. Whether it's a defensive lineman or a slot wide receiver, they all bring something to the table. The Dallas Cowboys need to approach this offseason with a "go for it" mentality, but if they continue to follow their free agency philosophy, Mario Edwards and Jordan Matthews could be nice pieces to add to the team that offer a lot of upside.
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