Draft insider Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network passed along a rumor that Dallas czar Jerry Jones is eyeing a “big splash” for a defensive player — an Ohio State defensive player, in particular.
“The Cowboys have a lot on their plate, considering the number of players on their roster who may hit the free-agent market,” Pauline wrote in his latest mailbag. “I can tell you this – a source close to the team told me, ‘Jerry wants to make a big splash in the draft.’ That leads me to believe Jones could look to trade up from the 17th overall pick.
Who would they move up for? I’m told they have been doing a ton of work on the Ohio State prospects. I’m sure they’d love to move up to get Chase Young, but that won’t happen. Speculatively, the other target could be cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, considering Byron Jones is likely heading out of town.”
Young, as Pauline notes, is out of the question. A move from 17 to the top-five — a selling of the proverbial farm — would be too cost-prohibitive, requiring the club to part with several first-round draft picks, including future choices. Jones is aggressive but not that aggressive.
Okudah is a much more attainable target. While he’s likely to go within the first 12 selections, the Cowboys wouldn’t surrender their entire war chest to acquire his services. The draft trade value chart indicates Dallas can jump from 17 (950 “points”) to 10 (1300 “points”) by only ponying up their second-round pick (No. 51 overall; 390 “points”).
The consensus top cornerback in the 2020 class, Okudah (6-1, 200) has drawn comparisons to Cardinals All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson due to his ideal blend of size, speed, and physical tools. He earned 2019 first-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors by recording a team-high three interceptions and nine pass deflections for the Buckeyes. He also forced two fumbles and collected 35 tackles.
If acquired, Okudah would step in as an immediate starter, because it’d mean the Cowboys lost current CB1 Byron Jones in free agency. The Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles reportedly will push to sign Jones, likely to a big-money multi-year deal, while Dallas prioritizes unsigned quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Jones is among numerous Cowboys defensive backs slated to hit the open market, joining safeties Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier and Darian Thompson and cornerbacks C.J. Goodwin and Anthony Brown.
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According to Cecil Lammey of 104.3 The Fan, Jones is expected to be a “top target” of the Broncos when free agency kicks off next month. Lammey added that “rumblings since the Senior Bowl” have linked Jones to Denver, and the situation is “worth keeping an eye on.”
Piggybacking on Lammey’s report, Bleacher Report predicted Jones will ink a five-year contract with the Broncos.
The club’s first-round choice 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 but did earn positive coverage marks from Pro Football Focus.
While the Cowboys will bolster their defense under new head coach Mike McCarthy and coordinator Mike Nolan, it doesn’t appear as if Jones is in their future plans with only so much salary-cap space to allocate.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL