The Miami Dolphins have landed one of the biggest free agent fishes in this 2020 market as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that former Dallas Cowboys corner Byron Jones has agreed to a contract. This deal will now make Jones the highest-paid cornerback in the entire NFL, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reports it's a five-year deal worth $82.5 million. Jones will have $57 million of that contract be fully guaranteed and it includes $40 million in the first two years.
According to Rapoport, Jones had a "crazy bidding war" among various corner-needy teams across the league. The New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders were two of the other clubs in the mix for Jones, but Miami ended up coming out on top. Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reports that the Raiders actually offered more money per year for Jones than the Dolphins, but Miami's offer was structured much more front loaded with was attractive to the corner. John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia adds that the Eagles were competitive with their offer, but Jones was looking for money (no state income tax in Florida) and wanted a fresh start from the NFC East. Also part of the reason why Jones picked the Dolphins, per Rapoport, was due to the style of play that head coach Brian Flores has created.
This record contract puts an end to Jones' five-year tenure with the Cowboys after they selected him with the 27th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft out of UConn. Given that Dallas had not only Jones hitting the market, but quarterback Dak Prescott (now franchised) and receiver Amari Cooper as well, it appeared like there was going to be at least one odd man out. While the jury is still out on what Cooper will do next now that he is an unrestricted free agent, Jones is heading for greener pastures.
"My time as a Dallas Cowboy has come to an end," Jones wrote in an Instagram post saying goodbye to the franchise. "I am forever grateful for the many opportunities the Jones family and Will McClay gave me over the past 5 years. Their commitment to my development allowed me to become the player I am today. I have an infinite amount of love and respect for my strength and conditioning coach, Mike Woicik, for kicking my ass in the weight room and helping me recover from off-season hip surgery in 2018.
"To the men in the locker room: you guys had my back through thick and thin. My success came on the coattails of your excellence on the field. I'll miss the hell outta you maniacs but I'll be rooting for you guys from afar. Continue to prosper and I'll do the same."
The 27-year-old is one of the best corners the league has to offer and totaled 46 tackles last season with six passes defended. Prior to that, Jones was named to the Pro Bowl and was a second-team All-Pro in 2018 and has turned in a coverage grade of 70 or better in four of his fives seasons in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
The corner spot is also a position that Miami finds itself heavily invested in at the moment. As they are giving Jones this record deal, he will now leapfrog his new teammate in Xavien Howard for the highest-paid corner in the league. Howard has an average annual value of $15.05 million on his current deal. That's quite an expensive, but lethal one-two punch that is currently united down in South Beach, who'll try to improve upon the 262.4 passing yards allow per game (seventh-most in the NFL) in 2019.