Cornerback isn’t the top priority for the Baltimore Ravens, but it’s hardly a position general manager Eric DeCosta can ignore during the 2023 NFL offseason. Not when Marcus Peters and Kyle Fuller are free agents, and not when the Ravens gave up 3,947 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air in 2022.
Fortunately, NFL.com’s Nick Shook believes Jonathan Jones of the New England Patriots is the perfect addition for the Ravens. Not only is Jones “a plug-and-play veteran who won’t cost the Ravens much and who provides the versatility they may desire while working in some of their other options in the secondary.”
Jones also “won’t fetch a Jamel Dean-level offer, which should also preserve some of the cap space Baltimore will need to keep (Lamar) Jackson — whenever that happens.”
Shook’s reference to the ongoing contract situation regarding quarterback Lamar Jackson is telling. DeCosta still needs to re-sign the face of the franchise, an expensive proposition, either via the franchise tag or a new long-term deal.
Finding a proven and cost-effective cover man to pair with Marlon Humphrey would ensure the Ravens don’t overlook their other needs besides Jackson’s future. Jones fits the bill in more ways than one.
Patriots’ Jonathan Jones Becoming Familiar Name for Ravens
This isn’t the first time Jones has been mentioned as a defensive back the Ravens ought to pursue in this year’s veteran market. The seven-year pro was dubbed “a good fit for a creative Ravens defense that does a lot of mixing and matching on the backend,” by Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus on Wednesday, January 18.
Spielberger’s reasoning was based on Jones being able to line up outside and in the slot. Wherever he’s deployed, No. 31 has a happy habit for getting his hands on the football.
Jones snatched four interceptions and broke up 11 more passes last season. Jones’ nose for the ball extended to forcing three fumbles.
His best game was against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9, when Jones blocked a punt and recorded a pick-six, both big plays highlighted by Pats Buzz:
Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh made his name as a special teams coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, so he’d appreciate Jones’ ability to make splash plays in football’s third phase.
Harbaugh’s defense could also use a turnover machine after the Ravens forced just 25 takeaways last season. Jones is suitably opportunistic, but the Ravens would also need him to eliminate big plays for offenses, something the secondary struggled with during 2022.
New Addition Would Complete Ravens’ Elite Secondary
The Ravens have the makings of an elite secondary thanks to shutdown corner Humphrey, along with versatile safeties Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams. All that’s missing is another stellar cornerback.
Peters usually fills the role, but he was far from his best last season. Meanwhile, Fuller missed the entire campaign thanks to a torn ACL.
Injuries and inconsistency among senior defensive backs led to the Ravens allowing 66.4 percent of passes to be completed against them. They also surrendered 6.7 yards per attempt.
Jones allowed just 52.7 percent of passes to be completed against him, according to Pro Football Reference. That number compares favorably to the 64.3 percent allowed by Peters, who was also burned for seven touchdowns, including by Tyreek Hill and the Miami Dolphins in Week 2:
While Peters appears to be on the wane, Jones is on the rise. The latter is also still in limbo regarding any future with the Patriots, per Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald: “According to a source, the Patriots have indicated they’d like to have Jones back. At this stage, however, there have been no substantive talks to that end.”
The Ravens should pounce if the Pats are dragging their feet about Jones, who Spotrac.com estimates has a market value of $12.4 million annually for the next two years. Jackson’s next deal needn’t prohibit those terms, provided DeCosta gets creative with the salary cap.