That Byron Jones no longer plays for the Dallas Cowboys isn’t an indictment on his ability. Nor was it due to money (or lack thereof), after the team slapped a $33 million franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott and rewarded wide receiver Amari Cooper with a $100 million extension.
The new Miami Dolphins cornerback believes his departure merely was the result of a numbers game.
“I don’t think so,” Jones recently said when asked if Prescott and Cooper contributed to his defection, via Pro Football Talk. “One thing that the Dallas Cowboys do a really good job at is drafting good, young players, and they have a whole bunch of good corners on that team – no question about that – and those guys will be just fine without me. But they believe strongly in the way they draft, and they’ve shown over the years they draft some freaking ballers no matter [if it is the] first round, seventh round, guys in between. They draft and develop really good players, so I don’t think the Dak and Amari’s situation had any effect on me. I think it’s their confidence in the people that they have on the roster now and who they’re going to get in the draft hopefully.”
Jones, following five mostly star-studded seasons in Dallas, took his talents to South Florida at the onset of free agency, inking a five-year, $82.5 million deal, the richest contract for a CB in league history. He’s slated to receive $40 million guaranteed over the first two years of the agreement and, at minimum, $54 million over the first three years.
It was a market-smashing pact, one that many long forecasted for Jones. But one the Cowboys appeared staunchly unwilling to match from the very beginning — from personnel exec Will McClay’s ominous January remarks to vice president Stephen Jones referring to Jones in the past-tense at last month’s Scouting Combine.
“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,” Jones said on Feb. 25. “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.”
The Cowboys allowed Jones to depart without much, if any, resistance, saving $16.5 million per year in favor of their cheaper alternatives: incumbents Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown, who signed a new three-year deal, and free-agent addition Maurice Canady, who inked a one-year contract.
Unless (until?) they address the position further, likely via the upcoming Draft, the Cowboys’ secondary will be the sum of its parts, each pulling weight to offset the loss of the former Pro Bowler.
This, they figured, was easier — and certainly cheaper — than retaining Jones.
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Cowboys CB Projected to Break Out in 2020
Bleacher Report has named the Dallas player who will shine brighter than the rest next season. The digital media giant tabbed fourth-year corner Awuzie as the team’s predicted breakout performer for 2020.
The Dallas Cowboys defense—and the roster in general—could look a lot different in 2020. One returning player who could become a new leader is cornerback Chidobe Awuzie.
Awuzie has slowly become a more productive defensive back over his first three seasons. In 2019, he racked up 79 tackles, 14 pass deflections and an interception. Quarterbacks posted a modest 89.1 passer rating when targeting him.
Byron Jones has already departed for the Miami Dolphins in free agency, and it appears it’ll be up to Awuzie to step into a role as a top corner.
The Cowboys’ second-round draft pick in 2017, Awuzie set career highs last season with 79 combined tackles and 14 pass breakups. He notched one interception, an impressive, body-contorting grab against the New Orleans Saints. His 2019 highlight reel also included an insanely fast (22.81 miles per hour) track-down of Giants running back Saquon Barkley — a play so insane it warranted a “random” drug test.
Stationed along the boundary opposite the since-defected Byron Jones, Awuzie logged 1,019 defensive snaps (94.4 percent) and mostly held his own in coverage, contributing to Dallas’ 10th-ranked secondary.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL