Byron Jones

East Rumors: Ansah, Bills, Scherff, Cowboys

The Bills do not appear ready to concede they are losing the Ziggy Ansah race. It is unclear what terms have been exchanged between Ansah and the teams pursuing him, but Brandon Beane does not believe the Seahawks are the favorites to land the defensive end.

We’re still in talks with him and his agent,” Beane said during an interview with 1270 The Fan (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, on Twitter). “Everything has been very good. All I’ll say about reports (regarding Seattle is emerging as favorite) is I don’t buy into that garbage, especially when I consider where some of the sourcing comes from.”

While the Seahawks have a more immediate need for edge rushers, the Bills recently declined perpetual trade candidate Shaq Lawson‘s fifth-year option and have Jerry Hughes in a contract year. Ansah visited the Bills in March, but the rehabbing lineman was not expected to sign until at least April. It appears the finish line is near for the soon-to-be 30-year-old sack artist’s decision.

Here is the latest news coming out of the Eastern divisions:

  • A torn pectoral muscle ended Brandon Scherff‘s fourth season, but there do not appear to be any complications in his return. Scherff expects to be ready for Redskins training camp. The fifth-year guard said (via Redskins.com) he was at around 90 percent when the Redskins started their offseason program late last month. In February, we heard Washington and its top guard began discussing an extension. But nothing has emerged on that front since. Scherff is entering his fifth-year option season.
  • Elsewhere in the NFC East, the Cowboys have a host of extension candidates. While Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper have emerged as the clubhouse leaders to be signed first, Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones included Ezekiel Elliott in that conversation. Jones called Elliott “every bit as important,” per Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). It still looks like Elliott, under contract through 2020, will take a backseat to Cooper and Prescott for the time being. The Cowboys have a history of overworking running backs as their rookie deals wind down, as DeMarco Murray‘s final Dallas season showed, but Jones is saying the right things regarding the team wanting Elliott in the fold long-term.
  • Jones also mentioned Jaylon Smith, La’el Collins and Byron Jones as players the team would like to address. “I feel very good that we’re going to strategically work through getting guys like Dak and Amari and Zeke done. And I think we can still do others,” Jones said (via Machota, on Twitter). Each is going into a contract year, with Collins having already signed two NFL deals despite entering the league at the same time as Cooper and Jones. But it will be difficult for the Cowboys to retain all three members of this section of their extension queue, given how much Prescott, Cooper and Elliott will cost.
  • The Bills reshuffled their scouting department recently. Former Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey, in his fourth year in Buffalo, is now a senior national scout with the Bills. Buffalo also hired A.J. Highsmith and Mike Szabo as area scouts. A.J. Highsmith, a 49ers staffer over the past five years, is the son of Browns executive Alonzo Highsmith. The Bills also announced Asil Mulbah received a promotion, becoming a pro scout, and that R.J. Webb is now on board as a scouting assistant.

NFC Notes: Gurley, Panthers, Cowboys, Giants

Much has been made about Todd Gurley and his knee, which caused him issues in the 2018 postseason. The Rams didn’t do much to quiet those rumors when they tabbed Memphis running back Darrell Henderson with the No. 70 pick in the draft.

The team, however, is adamant the pick of Henderson has nothing to do with Gurley’s status, Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams writes. Though the team did mention monitoring the perennial Pro Bowl back’s workload.

“Like we have said all along, we anticipate Todd being a huge part of this like he has been the last couple of years,” head coach Sean McVay said. “As far as managing the workload, those are things that we talk about with Todd and as you continue to get educated on, is that something that we should do for the long haul or something that is or isn’t going to affect Todd most importantly and how does that affect our team? But we added a really good playmaker was a big thing.”

Henderson was one of college football’s stars in 2018, rushing for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns on just 214 carries. His 8.9 yards per rush was no fluke, as he posted the exact same average as a sophomore in 2017.

It will be interesting how the Rams handle their backfield in 2019. In addition to Gurley and Henderson, the team also matched an offer for running back Malcolm Brown.

Heres’ more from around the NFC:

  • Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore has hired Drew Rosenhaus to represent him, per Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen (via Twitter). Rosenhaus and Robert Bailey will team up in repping the Maryland product, who posted 788 yards on 55 receptions in 2018.
  • The Cowboys are expected to be extremely cautious with cornerback Byron Jones, who underwent offseason hip surgery, the Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota tweets. Machota mentioned Jones, a breakout star in his first season as a cornerback, will be “highly managed,” but they do expect him to be ready for the start of the season.
  • Sticking in Dallas, new slot receiver Randall Cobb said he signed with the team because he wanted to play on a contender, Machota writes“Once I talked to everybody I knew this was the place,” Cobb said. “I definitely believe in this team. I felt like I wanted to be on a team that was a contender and I definitely believe that we have the ability, it’s just putting the pieces together.” Cobb replaces Cole Beasley in the slot, after the latter left for Buffalo early in the 2019 offseason.
  • The Giants will bring back veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins, ESPN’s Jordan Raanan tweets. Though the team drafted three cornerbacks, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman left no doubt Jenkins would be back, saying, “Janoris has a bunch of puppies he has to train.”

Cowboys Notes: Lawrence, Irving, Jones

Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones had hip surgery this week, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes. The issue started for Jones during the 2018 season and the club initially hoped that it would heal with rest. Unfortunately, things did not improve, forcing Jones to go under the knife. The good news is that the team believes Jones could be ready for training camp.

To date, the 26-year-old (27 in September) has not missed an NFL game. Last year, the Cowboys shifted Jones back to cornerback after spending the previous two seasons at safety and he thrived. Jones led the club with 15 pass breakups and earned the first Pro Bowl nod of his career.

Jones figures to be a part of the club’s plans moving forward and an extension could be on the way. For now, he’s set to play out his fifth-year option in 2019 at a salary of $6.26MM.

Here’s more from Dallas:

  • Cowboys exec Stephen Jones says Demarcus Lawrence‘s desire to get paid like Von Miller and Aaron Donald is holding up negotiations. “The top two guys, I’m sure that is why we’re struggling a little bit,” Jones said (via the Dallas Morning News). “There is a delta between the top two guys and where the rest of the edge rushers and pressure players have been paid up to this point. We’re motivated to do it right now. We were motivated to do it before we put the tag on him. At the same time, we have some conviction of the range he should be in in terms of his compensation and I’m sure they have some conviction of what they’re asking for. I’m not being critical, but therein lies the root of the negotiations.” The Cowboys are offering Lawrence $20MM per season, but Lawrence recently upped his asking price to $22.5MM/year.
  • Defensive tackle David Irving has retired from the NFL, and as he tells it, it was coach Jason Garrett‘s suggested course of action. “He told me I should just quit, smoke all the weed I want, the team didn’t need me,” Irving told Jori Epstein of USA Today. “I’m a distraction to the team. He views marijuana as a drug, whereas I view it as a medicine. It’s not a good situation.” Meanwhile, Irving says owner Jerry Jones was supportive of him and expressed disagreement with the NFL’s drug policies that landed him an indefinite suspension. Irving, meanwhile, plans to be a pro-marijuana advocate in his post-football life with a focus on how CBD can help NFL players deal with pain.
  • On Thursday, the Cowboys acquired pass rusher Robert Quinn from the Dolphins, which should help to reinforce their D-Line after losing Irving to retirement and Randy Gregory to an indefinite ban. Of course, they could be left with a glaring hole on the other side if they are unable to reach a long-term deal with Lawrence.

Cowboys Rumors: Earl Thomas, Witten, Draft

Seahawks free agent safety Earl Thomas is expected seek $15MM a year with his next deal, The Athletic’s Calvin Watkins tweets.

Watkins notes that figure might be too high for the Cowboys. Though possessing plenty of cap space this offseason, the team is expected to use most of that money in signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal and working on extensions for players like Dak Prescott and Byron Jones.

Thomas and the Cowboys have long been linked ever since the All-Pro safety told head coach Jason Garrett to “come get him” following a 2017 game. The Cowboys and Seahawks were in talks on trades for the star defender in the offseason but could not come to an agreement on draft-round compensation.

Thomas, a Texas native and longtime Cowboys fan, reportedly will not take a “hometown” discount with the team and is also expected to be courted by the 49ers.

Here’s more surrounding the Cowboys:

  • When asked whether the newly signed Jason Witten is a “coach in waiting,” owner Jerry Jones said that he will be with the team in the future, whether that is as a coach or in another position, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweets. After a year-long hiatus, Witten made a shocking decision when he decided to come back for another season in 2019. Long considered a future NFL coach, Witten is sure to make a move in that direction following what is, presumably, his last season.
  • Speaking of Witten, when the future Hall of Famer rejoined the team, it was expected the Cowboys would not take a tight end early in the draft. That might not be the case, as the team has already met with Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson, The Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota tweets. Though they might have interest, the Cowboys do not possess their first-round pick thanks to the Amari Cooper trade and the college standout will likely be gone before their Day 2 selection.
  • Like we said earlier, the Cowboys are expected to use most of their cap space to resign their own players this year. The team has already met with the agents for Prescott, Jones and Cooper, and are expected to meet with Lawrence’s agent tonight, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill Jr. tweets. They have not met with Ezekiel Elliott‘s agent yet, but have indicated plenty of interest in resigning him at some point.

 

Byron Jones Seeking Cowboys Extension

Almost certainly because of a glut of extension-eligible young talents, the Cowboys are not planning to be active in free agency this offseason.

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Jaylon Smith and DeMarcus Lawrence can be extended. The Cowboys have more than $54MM in projected 2019 cap space. But Byron Jones completed a breakout season in 2018. The safety-turned-cornerback has been extension-eligible for two years and has a lower-end fifth-year option salary ($6.26MM).

Jerry Jones said he is eyeing long-term deals with several of these players, Byron Jones included. The latter does not want to test free agency in 2020.

You’re not going to find a better, more well-ran organization than the Cowboys,” Byron Jones said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “The fans are great; the weather’s great; the food’s great for me. I live right in the city too, so I want nothing other than playing for the Dallas Cowboys.”

A Byron Jones re-up would have been much cheaper for the Cowboys last year. But after 2018, a second-team All-Pro season, the former Connecticut defender could push to become the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback. Jones’ safety years did not net him nearly the notoriety as his year as a Kris Richard-coached corner. The outside cover man has intercepted just two passes in 64 regular-season games, but in his first full season as an NFL corner, he rated as one of Pro Football Focus’ best-graded boundary defenders.

Josh Norman‘s $15MM-AAV deal has held the distinction of being the NFL’s highest-paid corner for nearly three years. With Norman’s pact coming together when the cap was at $155MM, and this year’s salary ceiling expected to push $190MM, this could be the year a younger defender supplants the Redskins veteran.

With so many extension candidates cropping up at once, the Cowboys enter one of the more complex offseasons in recent memory. It will be interesting to see how this process unfolds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys’ Jerry Jones On Elliott, Linehan

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is determined to hammer out new deals with running back Ezekiel Elliott, quarterback Dak Prescott, edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence, and cornerback Byron Jones. However, he’s stopping short of any guarantees on those fronts. 

I want him in the short-term and the long-term,” Jones said of Prescott in a radio interview (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas News).

He expressed the same sentiment about Elliott, Lawrence, and Jones while tempering expectations.

Now, getting [those contracts done]…hell, I want a bigger boat,” said Jones.

This was an up-and-down year for Prescott, but the Cowboys seem committed to moving forward with the 25-year-old (26 in July). As it stands, they have the former fifth-round pick under contract for an $816K cap figure through 2019, which should work to the team’s advantage – given his relative lack of earnings to date, Prescott may take the security of a below-market long-term deal over the gamble of free agency next year.

New deals for Elliott and Lawrence will be expensive propositions, but the Cowboys are planning to devote a big chunk of their $54MM+ in cap space towards keeping the band together.

Later in the interview, Jones declined to give offensive coordinator Scott Linehan a vote of confidence.

This is the time when these things are thought about,” Jones said when pressed on Linehan’s future (Twitter link). “This is the time when you may see an opportunity next week that you didn’t know existed next week, in the area of personnel or the area of coaching.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.