The Dallas Cowboys have several upcoming free agents, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to re-sign them all. According to multiple reports around the league, the Cowboys plan on letting cornerback Byron Jones test the open market. This probably means he won’t be back in Dallas, and this move just doesn’t make sense. Nobody is confusing Jones with the prime Darrelle Revis, but the UConn product plays one of the most important positions in football at a high level. The Cowboys have the financial resources to lock him up and should re-think their position before free agency officially opens.
Dallas Cowboys Shouldn’t Let Byron Jones Walk
Good Talent at Premier Position
Byron Jones isn’t quite as good as Stephon Gilmore or Tre’Davious White, but he’s in that next tier of elite corners. Cornerback is one of the hardest positions to play, and it’s also one of the most important. While quarterbacks are easily the most important position in football, cornerbacks probably comes in second.
Recent data studies performed by Pro Football Focus have led to the conclusion that pass coverage is more important to defensive success than pass rush. This doesn’t mean that pass rush is useless, just that teams should put more focus on building coverage units than ferocious fronts. Since wide receiver targets are typically the most valuable, the means cornerbacks are the most important position in the most important unit for a defense.
The NFL hasn’t quite caught on to this trend, as pass rushers still tend to make more in free agency than coverage specialists. Even if Jones resets the cornerback market, one could argue he’s getting exactly what he’s worth. While some knock Jones for his lack of turnovers, the fact remains that he’s annually among the best in completion percentage and PFF grade. Turnovers have more to do with poor offense than elite defense, Jones just happens to not be in the right place at the right time.
Losing Byron Jones Creates A Need
With Byron Jones presumably out of the picture, the Cowboys desperately need to find someone to play on the back end. Dallas’ secondary was probably the biggest weakness on the team, to begin with, and now they’ll need to do something drastic to address that hole in the offseason.
If they choose to sign a free agent, that just means the Cowboys are investing slightly less money on a worse player entering a new scheme. This obviously carries a lot of risk and is no guarantee to out. Alternately, the Cowboys could choose to save some cap space and address the need with their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. While this is the cheaper option, the NFL Draft is even more of a crapshoot than free agency. The draft is basically a glorified lottery, and rookies typically need time to develop before seeing the field.
The only reason to let Jones walk is if the Cowboys were strapped for cash. As of this posting, the team has almost $74 million in available spending money. A decent chunk of this is going to go to Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, but there should be enough left over for Jones.
Even if there wasn’t, letting Jones walk represents a catastrophic failure in forward-thinking by the Cowboys front office. Just under a year ago, Dallas handed out massive extensions to running back Ezekiel Elliott and off-ball linebacker Jaylon Smith. These players, while both good at their jobs, aren’t nearly as important to the overall success of the Cowboys as Byron Jones. The Cowboys should have done a better job planning ahead and making sure they retained their core pieces before letting a key member of the defense walk away for nothing.
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