Byron Jones

Cowboys Prepared To Let Byron Jones Walk?

With Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper now five weeks from free agency, the Cowboys have made their priorities clear. That stands to price out their other high-end free agent, but the Cowboys may not view Byron Jones as a player worth a top-market cornerback contract.

The Cowboys are leery of a big Jones payment, with Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News reporting they are not warm to the prospect of giving their top cornerback a deal that pays more than $12MM per year.

Even as the cornerback market has stagnated for several years now, its ceiling hovers well north of that benchmark. Nearly 15 corners make at least $12MM annually, and with the converted safety set for free agency in a year that will see the salary cap spike toward $200MM, it appears even likelier now that Jones will leave Dallas in March.

Jones has become one of the NFL’s top cover men, with the move to corner in 2018 reinvigorating the former first-round pick. But the Cowboys may be underwhelmed by his impact in the takeaway department, per Watkins. Jones has not intercepted a pass in his past 40 games, dating back to October 2017, and has just two picks in his career. That did not stop him from making the Pro Bowl in 2018, and Watkins notes those close to the corner expect a strong market for his services when the legal tampering period opens March 16. Jones graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 14 corner last season.

The Cowboys re-upped several key players over the past 10 months — extending DeMarcus LawrenceLa’el CollinsJaylon Smith and Ezekiel Elliott — and will retain Prescott and make a strong effort to keep Cooper. That will probably mean a bidding war for Jones. The 27-year-old defender should be expected to sign a lucrative pact — perhaps one that eclipses Xavien Howard‘s cornerback-record $15.05MM-per-year deal — in free agency.

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Eagles To Pursue CBs In Free Agency

The Eagles are expected to “go hard” after cornerbacks in free agency, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network hears. Philadelphia is projected to have around $44MM in cap space, and the club plans to use a big chunk of that on a CB or two.

The Broncos’ Chris Harris and the Cowboys’ Byron Jones are two of the biggest names being thrown around, and assuming they do not re-up with their current clubs, they will hit free agency with a good shot at a top-of-the-market deal (i.e. $15MM+ per year with upwards of $45MM in full guarantees). However, the Eagles will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to upgrade their CB corps, per Pauline.

Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are also eligible for free agency, and it’s unclear if the Eagles will bring back either player. They may explore a multiyear deal with Mills, who played decently after returning from injury in Week 7, but it would not be a surprise to see them part ways with Darby. Plus, as Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94WIP.com writes, Philadelphia does not consider Rasul Douglas or Sidney Jones starter material, and both are trade candidates.

As such, there will clearly be room for several cornerbacks on the Eagles’ 2020 roster. In 2019, the team finished in the middle of the pack in terms of pass defense efficiency, per Football Outsiders, and in passing yards allowed per game, so an upgrade is in order. Of course, they did their best to swing a trade for a quality CB (including Harris) at this year’s trade deadline, but they ultimately did not want to part with the type of draft capital that such a trade would have required.

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Latest On Cowboys’ Pending FAs, Jason Garrett

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Cowboys have made no progress on extensions for pending free agents Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, or Byron Jones, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes. La Canfora had a similar report towards the end of October, and nothing has changed since then.

Dallas, obviously, is not going to let Prescott get away, and even if the two sides cannot work out a long-term pact prior to the deadline for using the franchise tag, the Cowboys would tag their signal-caller to buy themselves some more time. That would mean that the Cowboys could not tag Cooper, and La Canfora’s sources say the odds of the team retaining Cooper without the tag are slim. Plus, given that we are now close to the end of the season, Cooper is not inclined to forego his shot at the open market by restarting extension negotiations.

La Canfora adds that there has been no communication between the Cowboys and Jones, and no talks are expected before the end of the season. With Jones, like Cooper, poised for a big payday, it seems increasingly likely that the team will lose both players.

With respect to Jason Garrett, we have already heard that the Cowboys will not be firing their head coach before the end of the season, but we also heard that Garrett may need to capture the Lombardi Trophy in order to remain in Dallas beyond 2019, and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network confirms earlier rumors that the Cowboys will have interest in Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley if they elect to move on from Garrett (video link). Owner Jerry Jones and his family already have a relationship with Riley stemming from Riley’s recruitment of Jones’ grandson, John Stephen Jones, who ultimately elected to play his collegiate ball at Arkansas.

Riley has been a hot name in NFL coaching rumors in the past, and if he elects to jump to the professional ranks, Rapoport suggests the Cowboys could be appealing to him.

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NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Jones, Manning

There is not going to be a quarterback controversy in the Giants organization, according to head coach Pat Shurmur. Rookie starting quarterback Daniel Jones‘ hot start to the season had many fans and pundits retracting their criticism of New York’s first-round selection. The former Duke quarterback, however, has shown some substantial regression since. With longtime starter and two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning remaining on the bench, some speculation began that the team might shift to the veteran. When asked if he would consider making a change, though, Shurmur remained committed to the rookie:

“No, I think Daniel is going to learn from everything that’s going on,” Shurmur said (via PFT).

Here’s more from one of the Giants’ biggest NFC East rivals:

  • Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett‘s job status has been a large point of speculation throughout the season. Garrett, currently in the final year of his contract, is the longest tenured head coach in the NFC East, but he has found himself on the hot seat many times since he was hired in 2010. Dallas ownership’s close relationship with Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley and Urban Meyer’s recent comments on FS1’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd have created even more speculation. Cowboys COO Stephen Jones tried to quell those rumors this week. Jones, the son of team owner and general manager Jerry Jones, tells Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network that the organization believes “Jason’s doing a great job” and has no intention of making a change.
  • Garrett isn’t the only prominent member of Cowboys in the last year of his contract. Extension negotiations with franchise quarterback Dak Prescott have stalled, making it increasingly likely that the team will need to use the franchise tag on him, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. While the tag would ensure their ability to retain their signal-caller, La Canfora mentions some domino effects that would impact two other Dallas cornerstones. Star corner Byron Jones and wide receiver Amari Cooper are both in their final years under contract as well. The team, via La Canfora, has gained little progress in talks with either player. Furthermore, the team had originally planned to franchise Jones, but unless they can settle their negotiations with Prescott, he will hit the unrestricted free agent market alongside Cooper and be able to negotiate with all 32 teams.
  • Elsewhere in the NFC East, the Redskins are still rejecting calls of trade interest on offensive lineman Trent Williams.

Injury Updates: Packers, Adams, Cardinals

No surprise here, but Davante Adams will miss another game this week, per the Packers‘ final injury report. This marks the wide receiver’s third-straight missed contest as he rehabs from a toe ailment.

Adams had a strong start to the season with 25 receptions for 378 yards before going down and seemed on his way to matching last year’s 111/1,386 posting. The Packers were able to get past the Lions without him and they’ll aim to do the same against the Raiders.

Here’s the latest on other bumps and bruises from around the NFL:

  • Uh oh – Cardinals running back David Johnson is dealing with a new injury. After tweaking his back against Atlanta, Johnson will be a game time decision thanks to a sore ankle, head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters.
  • The Cowboys will have offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, and cornerback Byron Jones are set to play on Sunday against the Eagles, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets. All five are listed as questionable for the game, but they took the practice field and Friday and should be good to go.
  • The Eagles, on the other hand, will try to fly without: linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot), cornerback Avonte Maddox (concussion/neck), tackle Jason Peters (knee), and running back Darren Sproles (quadricep).
  • Wide receiver Kenny Stills is set to return on Sunday against the Colts, per the club’s injury report.

NFC Notes: Inactives, Peterson, Evans, Jones

Adrian Peterson will not suit up vs. the Eagles today, as Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report. Redskins coach Jay Gruden has made it clear that Derrius Guice will be the starter and handle most of the rushing work.

Some of Peterson’s teammates aren’t happy that he’s a healthy scratch, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The future Hall-of-Famer is regarded by some as the best back on the team and many members of the Redskins believed that come week 1, the question would be how many carries Guice would be taking away from Peterson and not whether Peterson would be suiting up.

Washington gave Peterson a $1.5MM signing bonus and another $1MM to re-sign with the club this offseason. No word if the team has plans to trade or release him.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • TE Jordan Reed is among the other inactives for the Redskins, John Keim of ESPN.com tweets. QB Colt McCoy will also not suit up.
  • Mike Evans and Devin White will both play for the Buccaneers today, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The pair were listed as questionable heading into the contest will illnesses.
  • CB Byron Jones won’t start for the Cowboys today, Schefter adds in a separate tweet. Jones will play, but he’ll be limited as he is still recovering from offseason hip surgery.
  • RT Marcus Gilbert will not play for the Cardinals today, as Darren Urban relays on the team’s website. Gilbert is nursing a knee injury.

Cowboys Notes: Elliott, Garrett, Lawrence

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett says he has stayed in contact with Ezekiel Elliott during his holdout (Twitter link via Jon Machota of The Athletic). He went on to say that the conversations have been “all very positive,” though there’s still no word on when Elliott will show up for work.

Publicly, both sides are attempting to paint a fairly rosy picture of what’s taking place. Last week, a story likely leaked from Elliott’s camp indicated that he is in shape and ready to go for the upcoming season, despite his absence from practice. Meanwhile, Garrett was quick to tell reporters that he is on good terms with his star running back.

While we wait for movement on the Elliott front, here’s more from Dallas:

  • The Cowboys are set to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the PUP list, a source tells ESPN.com’s Todd Archer (on Twitter). Lawrence had shoulder surgery soon after signing his five-year, $101MM contract in April and has been out of action for the last few months. Crawford, meanwhile, is working through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Unfortunately, safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP.
  • This week, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones acknowledged that a new deal for Dak Prescott would put him in the top tier of compensation for NFL quarterbacks.

Injury Notes: Brown, Luck, Gore, Watt, Jones, Lawrence

Here’s the latest on all the injuries to big names as training camps get underway across the league:

  • There was a brief uproar earlier when it was mysteriously announced that Antonio Brown would start camp on the Raiders’ non-football injury list. However, the as of now undisclosed issue that caused Brown to be placed on the NFI was described to Field Yates of ESPN as “very minor” (Twitter link). Further, Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune tweets that the Raiders have known of the injury for two weeks, and that Brown will probably only miss a week of camp time. Despite the initial panic, it doesn’t sound like this is anything you need to monitor going forward.
  • Andrew Luck was sidelined by a calf injury during the Colts’ offseason program, which sparked some concerns about his Achilles. However, Luck told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network today “my Achilles is not at extra risk of anything. It’s fine” (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Pelissero notes Luck participated in team drills today, and that his limited workload has only been precautionary.
  • Speaking of the NFI, Bills GM Brandon Beane said that running back Frank Gore has been removed from it, per longtime Bills beat reporter Joe Buscaglia (Twitter link). Gore had been dealing with a minor injury, but has passed his physical and is cleared to practice. Gore will be competing for carries in a crowded Buffalo backfield that also features LeSean McCoy and rookie Devin Singletary.
  • J.J. Watt started camp on the Texans’ PUP list, but he’s now been removed and cleared to practice, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Watt was limited to just eight combined games in 2016 and 2017 due to injuries, but he played a full 16-game slate last year. Watt wasn’t the only Texan to get cleared, as James Palmer of NFL Network tweets that DeAndre Hopkins was also cleared and activated from PUP.
  • Byron Jones, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Noah Brown will start camp on the PUP list for the Cowboys, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Fortunately, Dallas is expecting all of them to be ready for the start of the season. Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery, Jones had surgery on his hip, and Crawford is also dealing with a hip injury. Last we heard, there had been no progress in extension talks between the team and Jones.

No Progress In Talks Between Cowboys, Byron Jones

We have written a great deal about the Cowboys top extension candidates — Dak PrescottEzekiel ElliottAmari Cooper, and Byron Jones — this offseason. It does not appear that the club is particularly close to striking a long-term deal with any of those players, and Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News reports today that there has been no progress between the Cowboys and Jones (Twitter link).

Dallas made Jones the No. 27 overall pick of the 2015 draft, and though he spent most of his first three years in the league as a safety, he converted to cornerback full-time last season, and it was a highly-successful transition. Jones was one of Pro Football Focus’ best-graded boundary defenders in 2018 en route to a Second Team All-Pro nod, and he has positioned himself nicely for a big payday.

Jones is due roughly $6.2MM in 2019 under the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, but a new deal would give him a considerable raise. The Dolphins made Xavien Howard the highest-paid CB in league history several months ago after signing him to a five-year, $76.5MM extension ($46MM guaranteed), and Jones will be shooting for a similar payout.

Given all of the big-money negotiations that the Cowboys are engaged in, it’s not surprising that they haven’t made much progress with Jones. But if they don’t get something soon, Jones may price himself out of the team’s range.

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Cowboys Unlikely To Extend Ezekiel Elliott?

Following the DeMarcus Lawrence extension, the Cowboys’ talks with their bevy of standouts have stagnated. But their priorities have become clear. The Cowboys have begun re-up discussions with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, and despite acknowledging Ezekiel Elliott is “the straw that stirs the drink” for them, the fourth-year running back appears to be on the team’s back-burner.

And they might not any time soon. Based on talks with several close to this process, ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano notes the Cowboys are not only unlikely to extend Elliott in 2019 but possibly will go through 2020 with the two-time rushing champion still tethered to his rookie deal.

Elliott being under contract for two more seasons, with his fifth-year option worth only $9.1MM, and the prospect of a 2021 franchise tag makes the Cowboys comfortable they can retain Elliott at a reasonable price for a while, Graziano adds. Elliott participated in Dallas’ offseason activities, and a recent report indicated the parties were on the same page. But the two-time Pro Bowler’s patience with this situation figures to soon be tested.

The 23-year-old back watched Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson each sign for at least $13MM per year, and Elliott has amassed a historic workload through his first three seasons. No running back has more touches than Elliott (1,003) since 2016, despite the Ohio State alum missing eight games because of suspension and Week 17 rest, and only two backs (Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson) have ever accumulated more touches per game than Elliott (25.1) through three seasons. Another high-volume season, at a $3.9MM base salary, would be a risky proposition for the former No. 4 overall pick.

The Cowboys may not only view Prescott and Cooper deals as more pressing matters, but Graziano adds a Byron Jones extension may be a higher priority as well. This makes sense, given these players are in contract years and Elliott is now signed through 2020. But Elliott’s 2017 suspension helped keep that Cowboys iteration out of the playoffs, and among this sect of extension candidates, he is the only first-team All-Pro.

While a holdout would stand to weaken the defending NFC East champions, Elliott would be subject to fines for missing training camp. And from the team’s perspective, these high-end running back deals obviously come with risk due to running backs’ short shelf lives. Nevertheless, Elliott’s next move will be interesting.

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