The Minnesota Vikings are expected to make wholesale changes to their defense to fit the needs of new defensive coordinator Brian Flores.
Flores is known for his aggressive, man-heavy blitz scheme from his days as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach. Flores turned the Dolphins defense, which allowed the most points in the league in 2019, into the sixth-stingiest defense the next season.
The biggest offseason acquisition that aided the transformation was Flores getting Byron Jones, an uber-athletic cornerback who the Vikings Wire penned as an ideal target this offseason with Flores arriving in Minnesota.
“[Jones] was the player that Flores targeted for his defense and he paired Jones with Xavien Howard,” Vikings Wire’s Tyler Forness wrote, adding that Jones may be a cap casualty with the Dolphins after missing the 2022 season due to injury. “The Vikings would have to do a restructure if they trade for him, but might be able to get him at a discount if he becomes a free agent.”
Byron Jones Could Be the Steal of Free Agency for Vikings
Jones is a versatile cover man who was drafted as a safety 27th overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. He scored. perfect 10.00 by Relative Athletic Score’s metrics, making him one of the most athletic prospects to come out of college. He holds the world record for the standing broad jump.
The Cowboys tried to make Jones their safety of the future, but after three seasons, Jones converted to cornerback — a move that paid dividends. Jones earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors in 2018 and became a prized free agent in the 2020 offseason.
Jones inked a monstrous five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Dolphins that offseason to fill out one of the most coveted cornerback rooms in the league. It made him the highest-paid cornerback in the league for a few months before it sparked a spending spree that has made cornerback one of the highest-paid positions in the NFL.
While Xavien Howard was the ball hawk of the Dolphins defense, Jones was the poised counterpart. Jones broke up 10 passes in 2021, allowed 54 receptions on 86 targets and committed just three penalties, per Pro Football Focus. Jones has had his struggles in Miami, but the Dolphins also struggled without his cover abilities, finishing the 2022 season ranked 24th in points allowed.
How Byron Jones Could Fit With Vikings
It’s unclear what kind of player Jones, who will turn 31 in September, will be after struggling to come back from his ankle surgery last year.
However, he’s a high-character player whose experience playing as a safety would make him a versatile piece that could play every spot in the secondary — the type of piece Flores would want with his penchant for Cover 0 and disguise blitzes.
Slot cornerback is a chief concern for the Vikings who are moving on from Chandon Sullivan this offseason and will likely bank on the development of their younger cornerback talent in Cam Dantzler (24), Andrew Booth Jr. (22) and Akayleb Evans (23).
Jones could fill any role and come at a serous discount considering his ties to Flores and Miami feeling snakebitten by Jones, who was paid $14 million guaranteed before undergoing ankle surgery last March. His recovery was expected to be completed by the start of the season, however, he spent the whole season on the physically unable to perform list.
Jones carries an $18.5 million cap hit next season but Miami could save $13.6 million in cap space by cutting him with a post-June 1 designation, per Over The Cap, which is plenty of incentive for the Dolphins to move on. He’s been a top roster cut candidate with Miami needing to get under the salary cap and reload their roster.