Byron Jones is on a collision course with NFL history.
While most project the impending free agent Dallas Cowboys cornerback to alter his positional landscape, ESPN insider Adam Schefter took estimates a step further — “about” $18 million annually and “approximately” $60 million in guarantees awaiting Jones on the open market.
Schefter named the top four landing spots for the former Pro Bowl defender: the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, New York Giants, and Las Vegas Raiders.
“I expect the Eagles to be in play on him,” he said Wednesday during an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic. “I don’t know if they’ll ultimately sign him but they’ll be one of the teams in prime contention for him at about 18 million a year with 60 million guaranteed approximately.”
At this stage, with 10 days until the league’s legal tampering period begins, it’s a matter of when — not if — Jones takes his talents elsewhere. The Cowboys have resigned themselves to the impending fate, mutually agreeing to let Jones test the proverbial waters, it was reported amid last week’s Scouting Combine.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones also echoed team vice president Stephen Jones’ skepticism over retaining Jones, admitting to where the club’s priorities lie: unsigned quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, then everybody else — 23 other free agents.
“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,” Jerry Jones said, per Pro Football Talk. “That’s a real challenge.”
Schefter, as plugged-in as they come, confirmed that Jones isn’t returning to Dallas.
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 second-team All-Pro choice 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.
One of the best available players in this year’s class, Jones undoubtedly will surpass Miami’s Xavien Howard as the sport’s richest CB. Howard currently holds the title after inking a five-year, $75.25 million ($15.05 million per year) extension that includes $46 million guaranteed ($27.185 million fully guaranteed).
The Raiders are said to have “legit” interest in Jones while teams like the Giants ($73.9 million) and Jets ($49.4 million) wield enough salary-cap room to absorb a record-setting pact.
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NFC East Foe Dubbed ‘Perfect Landing Spot’ for Jones
Schefter’s hearsay adds credibility to Bleacher Report’s claim that the Eagles are the “perfect landing spot” for Jones, who could jump at the chance of facing his former team twice a season.
Via columnist Kristopher Knox, whose contract prediction checks in significantly lower than Schefter’s:
The Cowboys are expected to let Jones hit free agency, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, and the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles should be interested. They ranked 19th in pass defense last season and could potentially lose Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and Ronald Darby from their secondary this offseason.
Joining the reigning division champs would allow Jones to remain in the playoff hunt for the foreseeable future. While the Eagles aren’t expected to enter the market with as much cap space as Dallas—they’re projected to have around $45.6 million—Philadelphia already has its franchise quarterback under contract.
The Eagles should be able to offer Jones a deal that rivals the five-year, $75.25 million contract Xavien Howard signed with the Miami Dolphins last offseason.
Prediction: Jones signs a five-year, $77 million contract with Philadelphia that includes $41 million guaranteed.
Philly has the financial flexibility to assuage Jones’ booming market value, and they certainly have a need at the position with CBs Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills primed to test unrestricted free agency this month.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL