If there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. Around this time of year, the smokestacks have a way of hovering.
Rumors started billowing early on Monday about the potential landing spots for Byron Jones. The Philadelphia Eagles were among a crowded field of suitors that included the New York Jets, Las Vegas Raiders and Miami Dolphins early in the day. Later, around 7 p.m., news broke that Jones had found a new home and was taking his talents to South Beach.
Jones will reportedly become the highest-paid cornerback in football, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. His deal is reportedly worth $82.5 million over five years, including $57 million guaranteed.
Miami will enter the 2020 season with arguably the two best (and highest-paid) cornerbacks in football: Xavien Howard and Jones. Howard inked a five-year, $76.5 million contract extension with the Dolphins in 2019, including $46 million in guaranteed money.
The move was leaked minutes after ESPN had reported that James Bradberry was heading to the Giants to become one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in football at $15 million per year. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Bradberry agreed to terms with New York on a three-year deal worth $45 million, including $32 million guaranteed.
The 26-year-old has recorded eight interceptions and 47 total pass breakups in four previous seasons in Carolina. His 2019 Pro Football Focus grade of 59.8 was considered poor.
Eagles, Raiders Lose Out on Bidding War
According to Pro Football Network‘s Tony Pauline, the Eagles and Raiders had been the two front-runners to lure Byron Jones away from Dallas. The 27-year-old was looking for a contract worth up to $18 million per year. Well, Jones got it — $16.5 million per year, to be exact — except it came from Miami.
Jones, who will turn 28 in September, doesn’t have a lot of tread on his tires. Or interceptions. Jones has only picked off two passes in his five-year NFL career but he’s widely regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in the game despite his overall grade being down in 2019, via Pro Football Focus.
Jones has 15 pass breakups and the fourth-best forced incompletion rate of any corner in the game over the past two seasons. Are those stats good enough to warrant shutdown cornerback kind of money? Yes, indeed they were.
Top Cornerbacks Left in Free Agency
Scratch James Bradberry, Byron Jones, Bradley Roby off the list. Go ahead and put Josh Norman on there for good measure. Those top cornerbacks are all off the market.
Teams desperate for cornerback help will have to consider cheaper options like Chris Harris Jr. and Logan Ryan. Other interesting names with possible high upside include Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant, Jimmy Smith, T.J. Carrie and Darqueze Dennard. The Vikings’ Trae Waynes and Lions’ Darius Slay could also be had in a possible trade scenario.
The Philadelphia Eagles were trying to land a prized corner but seemed unwilling to fork over $18 million per year to Byron Jones. They lost the bidding war to Miami. The team will have to do something else in free agency now as their two starters from last season — Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills — are both on the market.
The Eagles are largely expected to bring Mills back on a team-friendly deal but they will likely walk away from Darby. Either way, Philadelphia needs to shore up their secondary in some fashion after giving up 27 passing touchdowns in 2019.
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