Byron Jones

Cowboys Notes: Collins, Jones, Swaim, WRs

The Cowboys boast more defensive line depth than they have in the recent past, and they are expecting to have one of their starters back in time for the regular season. Executive VP Stephen Jones expects Maliek Collins to be ready to go by Week 1. Jones indicated during a Saturday radio interview with 105.3 KRLD-FM (via the Dallas Morning News) that Collins, who suffered another foot injury this offseason but was activated from the PUP list last week, may well be on a pitch count upon returning. He may no longer be a starter, however, with Tyrone Crawford having moved to defensive tackle. Crawford and Antwaun Woods are currently Dallas’ inside starters. Collins has started 30 of the 32 games he’s played since arriving as a third-round pick, so this would create some depth — something Jones said isn’t as prevalent at defensive tackle as it is at end — inside.

Here’s the latest out of Dallas:

  • Stephen Jones dismissed the prospect of Byron Jones returning to safety due to the team’s situation there. Byron Jones is now a cornerback, with new secondary coach Kris Richard preferring taller corners who can press, and Stephen Jones has praised the development the former first-round safety’s made at his new position.
  • Kavon Frazier is now working as Dallas’ starting strong safety, replacing the injured Xavier Woods for the time being, and that’s resulted in Jeff Heath moving to free safety, Calvin Watkins of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Cowboys do not view the recently signed Jeron Johnson as a starter but instead more of a depth piece behind the current first-stringers. Watkins writes the Cowboys discussed George Iloka, who opted for the Vikings on a league-minimum agreement, but liked Johnson because of his positional flexibility. Stephen Jones hinted at (Twitter link, via the Morning News’ Jon Machota) another safety potentially being added after preseason cuts commence.
  • While the Cowboys discussed Earl Thomas with the Seahawks, they did not replace Jason Witten with a high- or medium-profile player. Geoff Swaim, a 2015 seventh-round pick with nine career catches, will replace the future Hall of Famer in the starting lineup, per Watkins, who adds 2017 UDFA Blake Jarwin is the No. 2 tight end. Rico Gathers may not have a way onto the roster, with Watkins expecting Dallas to carry three tight ends. The Cowboys drafted Dalton Schultz in the fourth round, and he almost certainly will be the No. 3 player here.
  • Stephen Jones dropped an interesting hint about what the Cowboys may be planning with their reconfigured wide receiver corps. The team may choose to carry more than six at this spot. “Traditionally we’ve kept five or six receivers. But if I’m a betting man, I think that ends up being more than five or six,” Jones said (Twitter link, via Machota) of how the Cowboys plan to handle their Week 1 roster. Watkins views Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin, Terrance Williams and third-round rookie Michael Gallup as locks. UFA addition Deonte Thompson and second-year man Noah Brown are currently dealing with injuries, but it doesn’t look like they’re out of the running as a result.

Cowboys Exercise Byron Jones’ Option

It’s officially a done deal. The Cowboys have exercised Byron Jones‘ option for 2019, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The move was actually formalized on Friday, but was not reported until Monday morning.

Jones will be moving to safety from cornerback this season, but his salary will reflect his former position. The Cowboys now have the defensive back under contract for $6.2MM, though his salary is guaranteed for injury only.

Jones, 26 in September, has started every game for the Cowboys over the last two years and has tallied 130 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one touchdown in that span. Last year, his performance dipped a bit, as evidenced by his 76.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus (ranked No. 54 amongst safeties), down from 83.7 in 2016. The hope in Dallas is that he will get back on track at cornerback.

Since the fifth-year option was implemented under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have exercised the additional year on every first round pick except for Morris Claiborne, the No. 6 overall selection in the 2012 draft.

You can keep track of all fifth-year option decisions using PFR’s tracker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Exercise Byron Jones’ Option

The Cowboys are expected to exercise Byron Jones‘ fifth-year option, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). The move will keep Jones, a UConn product, under club control through the 2019 season. He will be locked into a $6.266MM salary, guaranteed for injury only, for 2019.

Jones, whom the Cowboys selected with the 27th overall pick of the 2015 draft, played cornerback at UConn and during the early portion of his rookie season in Dallas, but he settled in at safety thereafter. His overall performance took a bit of a dip last year, but that could be due to the fact that he was asked to play closer to the line of scrimmage in 2017 than in the preceding campaigns. Over the past two seasons, he has started every game and has compiled 130 tackles, two interceptions (including one pick-six), and two forced fumbles.

Jones will be moving back to cornerback in 2018, as he confirmed just last week. He will work under the tutelage of new defensive backs coach Kris Richard, who helped turn the Seahawks’ secondary into one of the most formidable in the league during his time in Seattle.

Although it remains to be seen whether Jones will be operating in the slot or outside the numbers, his wallet should also benefit from the move to corner. Corners generally earn more than safeties, as reflected in the franchise tag numbers for the two positions, which will help Jones when he goes to negotiate his next contract.

The Cowboys have until May 3 to formally exercise Jones’ option. All of the fifth-year decisions on 2015 first-rounders can be found on our tracker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Cowboys, Rams, Brockers, Lions, Dunlap

After much speculation, Cowboys defender Byron Jones confirmed on Monday that he will be switching from safety to cornerback in 2018, the Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota writes.

Viewed as a versatile defender coming out of college, Jones played cornerback as a rookie in 2015 and a safety the past two seasons. New defensive backs coach Kris Richard preferred him at the former.

“I think it will be a good move for me and the team. I’m always open to making position changes, as long as I’m in the best position to succeed. If [Richard] believes my best position is corner, then I’m down.”

Richard knows a thing or two about getting the best from bigger cornerbacks. With the Seahawks, Richard oversaw Richard Sherman’s ascent to one of the premier corners in the league. What remains to be seen is if the team prefers him on the boundary or in the slot. In 2017, rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis showed plenty of promise on the outside.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • In a press conference on Monday, Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers told reporters he tore his MCL in the team’s playoff loss to the Falcons in January, ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. During that game, the sixth-year defender sat out the second half. The good news for Los Angeles is that Brockers took part in team activities on Monday, but they’re not in pads until training camp.
  • If any Lions players are moved in draft-day deals, some of the names that make sense include Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Jake Rudock, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein writes. Those names all come to mind after the team added veterans in LeGarrette Blount and Matt Cassel in the offseason.
  • The goal is for the Bengals to sign both Carlos Dunlap and get a new deal with Geno AtkinsBengals.com writer Geoff Hobson notes in a mailbag. Both Dunlap’s and Atkins’ deals run through the 2018 campaign.
  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to be deposed in the next two weeks in Colin Kaeperncik‘s collusion case against the league, USA Today’s A.J. Perez writes. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll are also on the docket to be deposed.

Cowboys Could Move Byron Jones To Corner

The Cowboys could choose to move defensive back Byron Jones from safety to cornerback this offseason, sources tell Todd Archer of ESPN.com.Byron Jones (Vertical)

While a position change (especially one within the secondary) may not seem all that critical, a move to cornerback could prove financially beneficial for Jones over the long-term. Dallas has until May to exercise or decline its 2019 fifth-year option for Jones, and that figure will be decided by what position the former first-round pick plays during the upcoming season.

If the Cowboys were to use the franchise tag on Jones at some point, his position would again come into play. For example, the franchise tag is for cornerbacks in 2018 is expected to be worth $14.877MM, while the same tender for safeties will be valued at roughly $11.081MM. Those numbers, in turn, would be used as the basis for extension negotiations, and Jones would want talks to begin at the highest possible figure.

Of course, Jones’ fit within Dallas’ defense is also a consideration when discussing a possible position change. By the end of the 2017 campaign, the Cowboys were using three rookies — Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods — as starters, while the club will also return Anthony Brown and veteran Orlando Scandrick next season. Scandrick, however, could be released or traded, meaning Dallas’ secondary may not be as deep as it appears.

Jones, the 27th overall selection in the 2015 draft, has appeared in all 48 games (43 starts) since entering the NFL. He played cornerback at UConn and during the early portion of his rookie season, but has since settled in at safety. As Archer details, Jones was forced to play near the line of scrimmage in 2017 (as opposed to the center field role he handled earlier in his career), and the role change could have led to his decrease in production.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sunday Roundup: Marrone, Martin, Keenum

As the afternoon games get underway, let’s take a look at some news and notes from around the league:

  • We heard earlier today that Jaguars OL coach Doug Marrone will be viewed as a top head coaching candidate this offseason, and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com explains why. As Florio writes, Marrone, who became available after opting to terminate his relationship with Buffalo last year, came on the market “a little too unexpectedly” for teams to scrap their existing plans at the time. Now, however, with a high number of potential head coaching vacancies and a relatively small number of truly qualified candidates, Marrone will be an attractive option, especially given that the Bills are doing less (record-wise) with more talent under Rex Ryan than they did under Marrone.
  • Former NFL agent Joel Corry tweets that there is no need to speculate as to whether the Buccaneers will put the franchise tag on Doug Martin, as the nearly $12MM cap number for a franchised running back is too steep in today’s NFL. The last time the tag was used on an RB was in 2012, when the Ravens tagged Ray Rice and the Bears tagged Matt Forte. The cap number for a franchised RB at the time was $7.7MM.
  • ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweets that, even though the NFL has apparently closed the book on whether the Rams should be penalized for last week’s concussion controversy surrounding Case Keenum, the NFL Players Association is continuing its own investigation.
  • In his latest mailbag, Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com looks at what the Browns might expect to receive if they were to trade Johnny Manziel at this point, and he notes that the best the Browns could hope for is a future pick conditioned on Manziel’s active status and number of starts.
  • After the Lions promoted Isa Abdul-Quddus to a starting role and moved James Ihedigbo to the bench, they began to see a noticeable improvement from the back end of their defense, as Kyle Meinke of MLive.com observes. Abdul-Quddus is not as physical as Ihedigbo, but he covers much more ground and has established himself as a quality option in the team’s secondary, particularly in light of the recent injury to Glover Quin. Adbul-Quddus, who signed a one-year deal with Detroit last year, may be putting himself in line for a multi-year pact this offseason.
  • David Moore of The Dallas Morning News examines the futures for Cowboys defensive backs Byron Jones and Morris Claiborne, predicting that Dallas plans to move Jones to safety moving forward, thereby increasing the likelihood that the team retains Claiborne.
  • In a series of three articles, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com reexamines the Eagles‘ offseason decisions, offers his thoughts on the Jets‘ rebuilding process, and previews the 2016 class of free agent tight ends.

NFC Mailbags: Newman, Norman, Bucs, Reed, Cowboys

Our own Sam Robinson took you through some of the AFC Mailbags earlier today. Now to give the NFC some love, here are a few of the mailbags from that other conference:

  • The Vikings have been going with youth across the roster, and the secondary has been no exception with Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes slated to start on the outside. However, the team also signed 37-year-old corner Terence Newman to bring a veteran presence in the secondary, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN.com. Newman should take a little pressure of Waynes to be effective from day one.
  • The Panthers will definitely put a lot of focus into extending Luke Kuechly, but David Newton of ESPN.com expects that to come next offseason. Josh Norman is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and after performing well for the team he should be a priority for an extension.
  • Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com is guessing starters in his latest Buccaneers mailbag. He picks George Johnson and Jacquies Smith, Danny Lansanah as their third linebacker, and D.J. Swearinger over Chris Conte at safety.
  • Kyle Van Noy and Theo Riddick are a pair of players that have uncertain roles for the Lions in 2015. Van Noy could earn a starting job at linebacker, but won’t see starter’s snaps due to the likely reliance on nickel and dime packages, according to Mike Rothstein of ESPN.com. Riddick will also likely be an afterthough at running back, but should have ample opportunities to catch passes out of the backfield and in the slot.
  • With Jordan Reed‘s injuries, Washington could have used help at tight end either in free agency or the draft, writes John Keim of ESPN.com. While it is surprising, it means the team has confidence in Niles Paul, and believes contributions from the receivers and running backs catching passes could help them survive without Reed for some time.
  • In our lone entry from a non-ESPN writer, Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News writes that with the versatility of Byron Jones and Corey White in the secondary, the Cowboys defense could give some very creative looks in 2015. Both players are nominally corners, but each has the ability to play safety as well, and that could let the team mix and match in the defensive backfield.

Cowboys Sign Byron Jones

The Cowboys announced that they have signed first-round draft pick Byron Jones. With Jones in the fold, Dallas has now inked everyone in their 2015 draft class.

Jones’ deal will call for him to earn a little under $8MM over a four-year period. The No. 27 overall pick comes to Dallas with experience at both cornerback and safety. He has already gotten a chance to show off his versatility during OTAs, getting reps at both positions.

Of course, having another talented cornerback in the mix is a strategic move by the Cowboys. Not only do they get stronger at the position at the short-term, but Jones’ presence should give them additional leverage for a Brandon Carr pay cut and give the Cowboys the upper hand in Orlando Scandrick‘s contract dispute.

The UConn standout garnered serious interest from teams all around the league leading up to the draft and the rival Eagles were one team known to be keen on him.

East Rumors: Jets, Flowers, Giants

The Jets had cursory talks with the Titans about moving up for the No. 2 , but they weren’t exploring the move to try and land Marcus Mariota, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. Here’s more from the AFC and NFC East..

  • Brandon Scherff was higher on the Giants‘ board than Ereck Flowers, but they did not expect Scherff to get to No. 9, Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News tweets. Many speculated that the Giants were left scrambling at No. 9 with Scherff off the board, but it sounds like they were never banking on the Iowa standout.
  • The Giants did not make any effort to trade up to the Jets‘ No. 6 pick when USC defensive end Leonard Williams fell to the Jets at that spot, Vacchiano tweets.
  • Despite a report to the contrary, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (on Twitter) says the Dolphins have never expressed interest in Evan Mathis of the Eagles.
  • More from Salguero (link), who notes that the Dolphins wanted Todd Gurley. According to a team source, they were prepared to move up for him, but didn’t expect him to go as high as he did. “It’s not like we sat on our hands while he went No. 13. He went No. 10,” the source said.
  • The Cowboys taking Byron Jones in the first round should create some leverage for a Brandon Carr pay cut and give the Cowboys the upper hand in Orlando Scandrick‘s contract dispute, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com tweets.

Eagles Could Still Trade Bradford

After making one of the more surprising trades in recent memory when they dealt for Sam Bradford last month, the Eagles have insisted that they are not planning on using Bradford as a trade chip to move up in the draft to select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. However, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Philadelphia has done nothing to dispel that rumor since the deal was completed.

Specifically, the team has engaged in no contract talks with Bradford, who is entering the final year of his current deal and is owed nearly $13MM in 2015. Of course, Bradford could have some say in that as well. One team that could deal for Bradford would be the Browns, who are in desperate need of a franchise signal-caller and who have already tried to acquire the Oklahoma product this offseason. Under the framework of a three-team deal that Florio has put together, Cleveland would receive Bradford, Philadelphia would move up high enough in this year’s draft to select Mariota, and a third team could receive multiple high-round draft picks from bot the Eagles and Browns.

But if Bradford had his druthers, he surely would not want to be shipped to Cleveland, and if he were to sign a new multi-year deal with the Eagles, he would only become more valuable to a team like the Browns, which could keep him under club control beyond 2015. And that’s not to mention the financial aspect of a new contract, which would certainly require extensive negotiation. Bradford, after all, is hoping to play his way into a big payout in 2016 and is not willing to accept a “substandard” contract.

So the saga continues, despite the Eagles’ insistence that Bradford is not a stepping stone to Mariota. However, if a trade were to happen, one would think that the parameters would already be in place, or at least preliminary discussions would have been held. But just as there has been no chatter surrounding a new deal between the Eagles and Bradford, there have similarly been no substantiated rumblings about Philadelphia trading him. In any event, it looks like all possibilities remain on the table, and only Thursday night will bring any real clarity.

In addition to the Bradford piece, there are a few more Eagles nuggets to pass on today:

  • The Eagles cannot hide their interest in UConn CB Byron Jones, and Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer examines the case for Philadelphia to grab the speedy, physical corner with the No. 20 overall pick.
  • In a separate piece, McLane examines the size, speed, and other physical measurables that head coach Chip Kelly–whose “big people beat up little people” mantra has become a catchphrase–and vice president of player personnel Ed Marynowitz use to weed out certain players from their draft board. Although scheme, position, fit, and intelligence of course remain important components of the team’s evaluation process, if a player does not have the right build, the odds are he will not wind up on the Eagles’ radar. McLane wonders if that process is unnecessarily restricting the crop of talent from which Philadelphia picks.
  • Speaking of Marynowitz, Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer examines the challenges that await the newly-promoted 31-year-old.
  • Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com writes that the Eagles will not be selecting Alabama safety Landon Collins with their first round selection. Collins is widely regarded as the best safety in an otherwise weak class.