If the New England Patriots want to bring back their top cornerback for the 2023 season, they will need to sign him to a long-term deal.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Patriots won’t use the franchise tag on cornerback Jonathan Jones. The non-exclusive franchise tag for cornerbacks would have cost the Patriots $18.14 million next season according to Spotrac.
“He’ll hit the market, though New England has interest in bringing him back,” Rapoport added.
While the Patriots want to bring him back, New England will have competition in the pursuit of Jones. According to Mike Giardi of the NFL Network, Jones will have plenty of suitors.
Jones began his career with the Patriots in 2016. In 101 games, the cornerback has racked up 330 tackles, eight forced fumbles, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and 2.5 sacks per Pro Football Reference.
Jonathan Jones Wants to Stay With the New England Patriots
While there will be plenty of interest and New England is letting Jones hit free agency, the cornerback has stated that he wants to remain a Patriot. Appearing on “The Next Pats Podcast,” the cornerback said that New England is his home.
“I would hope so,” Jones said. “That’s where I’ve spent my career. It’s what I know. It’s what I love. I mean, New England is home for me in that aspect. We’ll see how free agency turns out and we’ll take it from there.
“The things that I’ve been a part of, the things I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of my career there, (have) been a blessing,” Jones added. “I’m just going into free agency, taking everything in stride, you know, one day at a time, and then just enjoying the process, enjoying the journey. (It’s) something new for me.”
Jonathan Jones has Become a Leader in the New England Patriots Locker Room
Now 29 years old, Jones has become a leader in the Patriots locker room.
“I enjoy bringing in those younger guys,” Jones said. “I’m at that age now where I came into the league — Year 7 or 8, that’s where Devin and Pat (Chung) and those guys took me under their wing. Being able to go through that as one of those younger guys, I embrace it. I enjoy bringing them along and helping them hopefully get to Year 7, to have a Year 7, and get to where I am in my career.
“I love to play football. Any time there’s competition, if we’re throwing rocks, I’m going to compete. That’s just who I am to my core,” he added. “It wasn’t really extra motivation (when the rookie corners were drafted). It was just a chance for me to take the next step in my career, in my journey. Like Devin always says, ‘Hey, you’re the leader. You’re the next up.’ ”
The potential loss of Jones is punctuated by the fact that New England could also lose Jakobi Meyers. The veteran wide receiver is also slated to hit free agency meaning that the Patriots might be forced to replace their top cornerback and top wide receiver.
Last season Meyers was the leading receiver for New England. In 2022 he racked up 67 receptions for 804 yards and six touchdowns per Pro Football Reference.