Cowboys Advised to Let Star Free Agent Sign Elsewhere this Offseason

Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy, owner Jerry Jones

Getty Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy, owner Jerry Jones

There’s only so much money the Dallas Cowboys can throw around, none of which should go to Byron Jones.

This, according to Bleacher Report, which listed one impending free agent each NFL team must “let walk away this offseason,” naming the former Pro Bowl cornerback as Dallas’ representative.

The Dallas Cowboys could theoretically bring back quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones. But that’d be extremely prohibitive, even for a team with nearly $80 million in salary-cap space.

So since Dallas can’t realistically let go of Prescott or Cooper without taking a big step backward on offense, Jones will likely have to go.

He’s probably their best corner, but that’s the issue. A 27-year-old outside cover man with a Pro Bowl on his resume will likely command a large deal on the open market. Dallas can’t afford to get involved in that game, especially with talented youngsters Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis already on the roster.

The Cowboys should focus on Prescott and Cooper, let Jones strike gold elsewhere, re-sign the inevitably cheaper Anthony Brown and pick up another corner early in the draft.

By their own admission, the Cowboys have made quarterback Dak Prescott the top contractual priority and wide receiver Amari Cooper a close No. 2. While, as the author suggests, the team could retain the troika, thanks to an estimated $81 million in salary-cap space, they’ve also made it abundantly clear Jones may be left wanting.

“He’s a starting-caliber NFL corner. A really good player. We have to figure out his financial value and if it fits for us,” Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay said last week, via the Dallas Morning News.

The club’s first-round draft pick in 2015 (No. 27 overall), Jones wrapped up his rookie contract, earning $6.266 million from his fifth-year option. A Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in 2018, he took a step back this season, totaling 46 tackles, six pass deflections, and one forced fumble. He failed to record an interception for the second year in a row. estimated Jones’ 2019 market value at $10.909 million, which would place him just beneath Pittsburgh’s Joe Haden ($11 million) as the NFL’s 17th-highest-paid CB in terms of annual salary. That likely represents the jumping-off point in future negotiations.

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Jones to Leave Cowboys, Land With NFC East Rival?

Reporting from last week’s Senior Bowl festivities, plugged-in NFL analyst Tony Pauline passed along a rumor that Jones could sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, who are expected to aggressively pursue a corner this offseason. Pauline also mentions Denver’s Chris Harris Jr. as an option for the reigning NFC East champions.

“Word here in Mobile is that the Philadelphia Eagles will go hard after a cornerback in free agency. Chris Harris and Byron Jones are two of the names being thrown around, but I expect the Eagles to turn over every rock in free agency in an attempt to fill the position,” Pauline wrote.

Smoke becoming fire, McClay admitted it’ll be difficult inking all three of Prescott, Cooper, and Jones — unrestricted free agents — to long-term, lucrative contracts. Meaning there’s a distinct chance the latter hits the open market and finds himself donning green and black in 2020.

“I think it’s going to be a tough deal,” he said. “It’s the NFL. …When you have good players, you have to figure out how to pay them or how to survive. So, that’s what we do in the front office is to try to figure how to work those contracts and get the best possible team with those guys. We’ve got to go through that whole process.”

READ NEXT: Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Emphatically Predicts New Dak Prescott Contract

Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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