Byron Jones entered the 2020 free agent market as not only the consensus top cornerback but one of the rare players to hit unrestricted free agency without any major red flags. Jones has only missed one game in his career due to injuries, and in spite of a low interception count, Jones' advanced stats -- targets, receptions, and yards allowed in coverage -- indicate he's every bit the elite cornerback he just got paid to be. Jones reset the market at his position when he signed awith the Miami Dolphins. Jones will have $57 million of that contract be fully guaranteed and it includes $40 million in the first two years.
Every NFL team has its own list of in-house free agents to sort through, but there were . That's no small feat for owner Jerry Jones and Co., but the reality is they were never looking to retain every single one. They are, however, all-in on keeping quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper secured for 2020 and beyond, the latter of which they got done on the first day of legal tampering, but cornerback Byron Jones found himself as the odd man out in their equation -- for several reasons.
It's not that the Cowboys couldn't afford to set the market with Jones, but instead their refusal to do so. For Jones, the team's former first-round pick, it was all about how he views his value to the team versus how they view it, and there's a bit of a disconnect between those two things.
The Cowboys know Jones is an elite corner, but feel someone like Quinn -- i.e., a pass rush specialist -- is much more difficult to replace and less expensive to keep. The Dolphins are thankful to see the Cowboys let Jones hit the open market, a move seen as a mistake by many, and he had no shortage of suitors. A bidding war between multiple teams ensued for Jones and the Dolphins came out on top.
After all, All-Pro cover corners who also happen to be under the age of 28 don't simply fall from the sky.
Scouting report on Jones (pros and cons):
- Rare athletic talent/Combine record-setter
- Extreme football IQ
- Elite cover corner
- Ability to flex multiple positions
- No NFL suspensions on record
- Lack of takeaways
Free agent timeline (prior to signing with MIA):
Saturday, Feb. 29: As noted above, there will be a strong list of suitors in pursuit of Jones, but none are expected to be as aggressive as the Eagles. If Jones truly wants to avenge the lack of value he feels the Cowboys placed upon him, he couldn't choose a better way to do it than to both set the market and suit up for a club they'll see at least twice a year, every year. The fact he knows every single tendency of Dak Prescott also doesn't hurt.
Friday, Feb. 21: The initial plan for the Cowboys was to extend Prescott and have a tag available for both Cooper and possibly Jones, but with a new CBA potentially landing soon, they'll only have one tag to use in 2020. That will go to either Prescott or Cooper -- whoever doesn't agree to a deal first ahead of the March 12 deadline -- leaving Jones out in the cold. He won't be cold for long though, because his market is white-hot.
Tuesday, Feb. 18: Jones' market value alone is higher than what the Cowboys are willing to offer, but other teams will be more than happy to up the ante once they can legally give him a call on March 16. Expect Jones to land somewhere quickly in the first wave of free agency, with the City of Brotherly Love being the frontrunner to call itself his new home.
Thursday, Jan. 23: Sources confirmed to CBS Sports in January that the fate of Jones was also tied to that of Quinn, and that the Cowboys valued the latter much more than the former. To that end, the team is ready to put an offer in from of Quinn that should keep him in Dallas while letting Jones pack up and leave, in what turned out to be a free agency tug-of-war between the two.