Cowboys’ Jerry Jones Spells out ‘Real Challenge’ of Retaining Byron Jones

Byron Jones

Getty Byron Jones

At this stage, it’s seemingly a matter of when, not if, Byron Jones departs the Dallas Cowboys.

With 24 other free agents, including quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, and only so much of their $77 million in cap space to allocate, the Cowboys have given every indication they’re prepared to move on from the star cornerback.

The latest affirmation came Thursday from owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who cautioned it isn’t “a given” that Jones — projected to the land the richest CB contract in NFL history — has priced himself out of the team’s ballpark.

But …

“It certainly is pretty plain to see that, when you have the players we have right now under contract, plus we have arguably three of the top free agents there are out there, and we have the prospects of this Collective Bargaining Agreement, that we’ve got some work to do,” Jones said, per Pro Football Talk. “That’s a real challenge.”

The Cowboys and Jones’ representatives met at the Combine on Friday, 17 days before the league’s legal tampering window opens and the former first-round pick potentially becomes the highest-paid corner ever — an estimated $15-16 million annually, be it from Dallas or elsewhere.

It’s more so standard operating procedure than it is a glimmer of hope, however. The club admittedly has prioritized Prescott and Cooper in negotiations, and vice president Stephen Jones recently spoke in the past tense when discussing Jones’ muddied future with the organization.

“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,” he said Monday at the Combine, per David Helman of the Cowboys’ official website. “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.”

Chosen No. 27 overall in 2015, Jones wrapped up his rookie contract this past season, earning $6.266 million from his fifth-year option. A Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in 2018, he took a step back in 2019, totaling 46 tackles, six pass deflections, and one forced fumble. He failed to record an interception for the second straight year but earned positive coverage marks from Pro Football Focus.

“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 month.

Jones will have no shortage of suitors waiting to pounce if Dallas opts to part ways. He’s been connected to the Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos, who reportedly will aggressively pursue the 27-year-old.

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Cowboys, Dak Reportedly Take Step Toward New Deal

That sound you hear is the silence being broken between Dallas and its franchise QB. According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, the club engaged Prescott’s agent, Todd France, about a new deal for the two-time Pro Bowler.

The pow-wow took place Wednesday at the Combine, and although it “didn’t last long,” the base-touching is significant in that it officially ends a five-month impasse, prompting cautious optimism with March 18, the official start of free agency, fast approaching.

As the expression goes, deadlines spur action. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, the window to assign franchise and transition tags opened Thursday, and the Cowboys have until March 12 to apply either tag to Prescott, who’s reportedly aiming to become the sport’s richest QB by average annual salary, topping Seattle’s Russell Wilson ($35 million).

Jones, though, is hopeful of reaching Point B from Point A without a detour, “bucking history” in the process. The plan: Lock him down on a multi-year pact well before the deadline.

“Our goal is to get it done with Dak,” he said Monday, via the Dallas Morning News. “I know he wants to be here. We want him to be here long-term. He’s our guy.”

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL