Byron Jones

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Jets, Jones

The Patriots may have the top bargain at the quarterback position this season, with Cam Newton making league-minimum money (plus incentives) on his one-year deal. This reality would not be unfolding had Tom Brady come to terms with the Patriots on an extension ahead of the 2019 season. Prior to the Pats and Brady agreeing on an in-name-only extension that allowed him to become a free agent in 2020, the team made its legendary passer a two-year, $53MM extension offer, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The number here is notable, considering it would have represented a raise for Brady on a through-2021 commitment. While Brady was seeking an extension similar to the one Drew Brees had signed with the Saints in 2018, he almost certainly landed a better deal — two years, $50MM fully guaranteed — with the Buccaneers this March.

Although the Pats were prepared to consider Brady counteroffers in February and March of this year, Howe adds Brady’s camp did not make one. A previous report indicated, however, the Patriots did not make a strong effort to re-sign Brady this year — a strategy that rubbed the free agent passer the wrong way.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Following his 397-yard passing performance against the Seahawks, Newton has firmly re-established himself as an extension candidate. Given his injury history, however, the Patriots would probably like to see if their new QB1 can hold up for a full season or at least for most of it before beginning contract talks. Newton said during a recent radio interview an extension is “literally the last of my worries,” per WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable. The 31-year-old quarterback also indicated he did not want to become mired in a back-and-forth negotiation with the Pats when he signed in June, leading to his incentive-laden deal. Were Newton to stay healthy this season, however, a negotiation would seemingly commence and end with the former MVP signed to a deal more lucrative than his 2015 Panthers extension.
  • The Dolphins will be without Byron Jones against the Jaguars. Miami ruled out its high-priced free agent acquisition, who landed on the injury report with Achilles and groin issues. Jones left the Dolphins’ Week 2 game against the Bills in the first quarter. This will only be his second missed game since arriving in the NFL in 2015.
  • More wideout injury trouble for the Jets. They will be without Breshad Perriman for a game or two with an ankle ailment, Adam Gase said this week. Gang Green is already down Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims. Crowder is not certain to return in Week 3, and Mims must reside on IR through Week 4.
  • Le’Veon Bell dropped a considerable amount of weight this offseason, coming into this season at 210 pounds. With a CBS broadcast indicating Bell lost 24 pounds, this would have placed the former All-Pro at 234 last year — above his listed playing weight. Bell’s conditioning was a concern within the organization, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Bell is currently on IR and almost certainly in his final season as a Jet.
  • The Patriots have asked second-round rookie Josh Uche to morph from college pass rusher to all-around linebacker, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Perhaps this developmental role resulted in Uche being a healthy scratch in Week 1, with the Pats having third-round linebacker Anfernee Jennings active over him. Uche has yet to play this season; he was inactive because of an ankle injury in Week 2. The ex-Michigan Wolverine, however, is off the Pats’ injury report ahead of their Week 3 game against the Raiders.

Raiders Offered More Money For Byron Jones

Byron Jones just became the league’s highest-paid cornerback when the Dolphins agreed to pay him $82.5MM over five years, and he actually turned down even more money.

The Raiders offered more money annually than Miami did, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). However, the Dolphins bested them in one crucial aspect, the front-loaded nature of the contract. Garafolo reports that Vegas’ deal was more spread out, while Miami’s will give Jones $40MM just within the first two years.

As he points out, both teams will be playing in states with no state income tax, putting even more cash in Jones’ pocket. It’s often speculated that Raiders owner Mark Davis doesn’t have quite as much cash on hand as other NFL owners, and it’s worth wondering if that played a role in the team’s reluctance to front-load a deal.

The Raiders have been perhaps the moost aggressive team in free agency overall, signing a whole bunch of guys including Nick Kwiatkoski, Cory Littleton, Marcus Mariota, Jason Witten, Jeff Heath, Maliek Collins, and Carl Nassib. Jones had a very active market, and was the consensus top corner available.

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Dolphins To Sign CB Byron Jones

Just moments after James Bradberry agreed to sign with the Giants, another top cornerback has been taken off the market. Byron Jones has inked a deal with the Dolphins, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). It’s a five-year, $82.5 million deal, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). The deal includes $57MM guaranteed and $40MM through the first two seasons.

The contract will make Jones the highest-paid player at his position, with the deal paying him $16.5MM annually. We heard last week that the market for the cornerback was expected to “start” at $16-17MM per year. Jones new teammate, Xavien Howard, previously led all cornerbacks with a $15.05MM annual salary.

ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweets that the Dolphins were willing to give Jones more guaranteed money than rival suitors, while Rapoport notes that the Raiders made a competitive offer to the defensive back (via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area). Further, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets that both Miami and Vegas offered “huge money in tax-free states,” but Miami’s structure of up-front money appealed to Jones.

A number of teams, including the Raiders, Broncos, Lions, Eagles, Giants, and Jets, had been connected to Jones at some point during the offseason. The Cowboys had expressed some optimism in retaining the Pro Bowler. However, the Cowboys had some bigger fish to fry with both Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, and it’s uncertain if they could afford Jones’ new pact, anyway.

Jones, 27, played safety during his first three years in Dallas but switched to corner in 2018, promptly earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors. In 2019, Jones started 14 games for the Cowboys, and ranked 14th in both Pro Football Focus‘ CB grades and Football Outsiders‘ success rate metric.

CB Rumors: Harris, Bills, Jones, Dolphins, Trufant, Jets

The latest on key cornerbacks from around the NFL:

  • The Jets remain zeroed in on James Bradberry, but they’re also in the hunt for a second free agent cornerback. That search could lead them to Desmond Trufant, Connor Hughes of The Athletic tweets. Trufant will be cut loose by at Atlanta this week.
  • The Dolphins are among the clubs that have discussed impending Dallas free agent Byron Jones, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. You can add Miami to the list of previously reported suitors for Jones, which includes the Jets, Raiders, and Eagles.
  • More from Anderson (via Twitter), who notes that the Bills are now in on veteran Chris Harris. They join the Cowboys, Bills, Jets, Raiders, and other clubs in search of the experienced secondary help that Harris would provide.

Byron Jones Likely To Become NFL’s Highest-Paid CB

The market for Cowboys free agent cornerback Byron Jones is expected to “start” at $16-17MM per year, which would make Jones the NFL’s highest-paid corner, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Jones is widely expected to leave Dallas, where the Cowboys simply have too many other stars — namely Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper — to re-sign before they can turn their attention to Jones. Thus far, a number of clubs have been tied to the Jones market, including the Raiders, Broncos, Lions, Eagles, Giants, and Jets.

The Dolphins’ Xavien Howard currently leads all cornerbacks with a $15.05MM annual salary. Recently-released Jet Trumaine Johnson had been second at $14.5MM, while the Vikings’ Xavier Rhodes, who could be cut himself in a matter of days, is third at $14.02MM. Jones should easily top all those figures, especially if interested parties drive up his price.

Jones, 27, played safety during his first three years in Dallas but switched to corner in 2018, promptly earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors. In 2019, Jones started 14 games for the Cowboys, and ranked 14th in both Pro Football Focus‘ CB grades and Football Outsiders‘ success rate metric.

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Jets Interested In Byron Jones

The Jets’ need for cornerback help could lead to big spending in that area. The Jets are showing interest in pending Cowboys free agent Byron Jones, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com

Cimini cautions that GM Joe Douglas might not want to reset the cornerback market with Jones or fellow top FA CB James Bradberry, but it’s a major hole for the Jets and they might not be able to resist the chance to land a top-tier corner. Solid cornerbacks rarely become available, so they tend to get overpaid. Those deals have yielded mixed results – Cimini notes that the Patriots’ big spend on Stephon Gilmore panned out, though others have not.

Jones is only 27 and many expect him to land a deal worth at least $15MM/year. The Eagles, Giants, and Lions, are a few of the teams that could make a play for him, and the list goes on from there. The Broncos, once thought to be a suitor, will probably put their attention elsewhere after landing A.J. Bouye, who will take over for longtime standout Chris Harris.

The cornerback market hasn’t moved much as of late. When the Dolphins re-upped Xavien Howard and made him the highest paid CB in the NFL, his $15.1MM AAV barely edged Josh Norman‘s 2016 deal. Jones could change that: he’s the belle of the ball, and it might take $16MM, or $17MM, per annum to land him.

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East Notes: Giants, Eagles, Jones, Bills, Jets

Free agent offensive lineman Mike Remmers will not re-sign with the Giants before the market opens in two weeks, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Remmers started 14 games at right tackle for New York in 2019, but given that he’s entering his age-31 season, it shouldn’t be surprising if he’s forced to settle for another one-year deal in free agency. A former undrafted free agent, Remmers has spent two of the past three seasons playing under Pat Shurmur, leading Florio to speculate that Remmer could now be an option for the offensive line-needy Broncos, who recently brought Shurmur aboard as offensive coordinator.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • A number of teams have expressed early interest in Cowboys free agent cornerback Byron Jones, but Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network hears the Giants and Eagles could potentially engage in a bidding war for the veteran defensive back. The Broncos, Lions, and Raiders have also been mentioned as possible suitors for Jones, who is reaching free agency after five seasons in Dallas. Widely viewed as the best corner available, Jones could reset the CB market by topping $16MM+ in annual salary.
  • Just three seasons into his NFL career, the Bills’ Tre’Davious White has already positioned himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the league. “Obviously, Tre’s a guy we love and want back,” general manager Brandon Beane indicated on WGR 550 AM (link via Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News). “You do look and try and find what the value is. And it’s hard. It can sometimes be hard for agents, too, because they’re trying to look at what the market is today versus what’s it going to be in two years. Do they want to play it out? Do they want security now?” The Bills can control White through at least 2021 via the fifth-year option.
  • Free agent quarterback Trevor Siemian is now fully recovered after suffering a brutal ankle injury in Week 2, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Siemian became the Jets‘ starter after Sam Darnold was diagnosed with mono, but attempted only six passes before going down. Just 28 years old and with 25 NFL starts under his belt, Siemian could attract interest as a back-end No. 2 quarterback.

Latest On Giants’ FA, Draft Plans

The Giants are in dire need of a top-flight pass rusher, but we’ve been hearing for weeks that no such players — with the possible exception of Jadeveon Clowney — are likely to hit the open market. The Giants are reportedly interested in Clowney, and Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv believes the club will make a run at him, but they will be facing stiff competition for his services.

Though Big Blue has upwards of $70MM in cap space, Vacchiano says the team is not going to break the bank for a second-tier option like Kyle Van Noy or Dante Fowler. And with Ohio State standout Chase Young almost certain to be off the board by the time the Giants are on the clock with the No. 4 overall selection in this year’s draft, adding an immediate-impact edge rusher from the college ranks will also be difficult.

GM Dave Gettleman recently noted that improving a club’s secondary can have a trickle-down effect on its pass rush, and sources expect Gettleman to prioritize cornerbacks in free agency, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. The Cowboys’ Byron Jones and the Broncos’ Chris Harris are the two top CBs on the market, and Dunleavy believes New York will at least make a pitch to Jones. We recently heard that the Panthers’ James Bradberry‘s price tag may be too rich for the Giants, though Bradberry is not as accomplished as Harris or Jones.

But even if the Giants land a coveted defender or two in free agency, they could still make defense a priority in the draft. They have been linked to Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, and league sources are telling Matt Miller of Bleacher Report that the club is likely to take Clemson defender Isaiah Simmons. Simmons is listed as a linebacker, but his versatility — which includes plenty of pass rush ability — is perhaps his best asset.

If the Giants don’t love their options with the No. 4 pick, they could trade back and perhaps land one of this year’s top left tackle prospects. But Gettleman has never traded down in his seven drafts as GM, and Vacchiano writes in a separate piece that Gettleman will not drop down too far, if he drops down at all. The Giants could be a trade partner for a club looking for a QB, but those teams aren’t picking too far behind New York, so Gettleman will still be able to land an elite player if he chooses to sell the No. 4 selection.

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Broncos, Eagles, Lions In Play For Byron Jones

The Cowboys prioritizing Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper over Byron Jones will soon make the cornerback quite the coveted commodity on the market. More potential destinations have emerged.

After the Raiders’ reported interest, Jones will be in the mix for another AFC West team. The Broncos are expected to make a run at Jones, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post, with Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com noting (ESPN+ link) that the Eagles and Lions join the Broncos as “strong possibilities” for Jones.

Denver outflanks both Detroit and Philadelphia in cap space, sitting in the top 10 at $70MM-plus, and has a major need at corner. Four-time Pro Bowler Chris Harris is a free agent-to-be, and the odds currently lean toward the final holdover from Denver’s Super Bowl champion secondary leaving after nine seasons. The Broncos are a rumored Darius Slay suitor, with Fowler and Graziano adding the team wants to make a strong effort to improve at corner. Beyond Harris, the Broncos struggled throughout 2019 to find capable outside cover men.

Detroit and Philly hold $47MM and $41MM in cap space, respectively. The Lions have far more invested at corner, with Slay in a contract year and Justin Coleman attached to a $9MM-AAV deal. The Eagles have barely $6MM committed to the position in total, with Ronald Darby on track for free agency.

The bidding for Jones will likely escalate to the point the 27-year-old defender exits free agency as the league’s highest-paid corner — perhaps by a substantial margin. The cornerback market has barely budged over the past half-decade; Xavien Howard‘s $15.1MM extension barely topped Josh Norman‘s 2016 deal. Jones, however, is viewed as this market’s top corner, and a deal north of $17MM annually would not be surprising.

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Raiders Interested In CB Byron Jones

Tom Brady isn’t the only big name on the Raiders’ list of targets. Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the team is expected to show “legitimate interest” in cornerback Byron Jones.

[RELATED: James Bradberry Seeking $15MM/Season]

The Raiders are sitting on more than $50MM in cap space, and they could naturally use some reinforcement on defense. While 2019 second-rounder Trayvon Mullen showed that he can be a dependable starter, pairing him with someone of Jones’ caliber could create one of the top tandems in the league.

Jones has spent his entire career with the Cowboys, and he earned a Pro Bowl nod and second-team All-Pro recognition during the 2018 season. This past year, he finished with 46 tackles, six passes defended, and one forced fumble. Bonsignore notes that he only allowed 106 yards after the catch last season.

With the Cowboys focused on retaining Dak Prescott and wideout Amari Cooper, it’s been expected that Jones will end up switching squads this offseason (although Dallas “will at least do their due diligence” on the defensive back). Jones will be joined at the top of the cornerback market by James Bradberry and Chris Harris.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.