The Dallas Cowboys may have to decide between an expensive cornerback in Byron Jones or a bargain defensive back in Anthony Brown next offseason.
The Dallas Cowboys have one of the youngest yet very talented teams in the NFL right now. And most seem to agree the Cowboys should make a deep playoff run … on paper. Keeping this roster together for long is a whole other issue.
There is a price for drafting well and signing your marquee players to expensive long term extensions. It means making some tough decisions due to limited salary cap space somewhere down the road.
The Cowboys have one of the most talented offensive lines in the league with perennial Pro Bowlers in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin all under long term deals. This offseason Dallas inked defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to a five-year, $105 million contract, with a whopping $65 million guaranteed.
Now quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and possibly even running back Ezekiel Elliott are expected to receive similar contract extensions soon. This leaves Dallas in a situation where they are going to have to make some hard decisions about the future of some of their more talented players. And that first tough choice appears to be coming in 2020.
Cornerback Byron Jones earned his first Pro Bowl nomination in 2018. Passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Kris Richard likely changed the career trajectory for Jones when he moved the safety back to corner last year. Although Jones did not record a single interception, he proved to be one of the best cover corners in the league posting 67 tackles and a career-high 14 pass defends while leading an underrated secondary in Dallas.
Jones has also been rumored as someone who might get himself an extension soon. But his lack of success prior to last year means he’ll likely play out the upcoming season on his fifth-year option hoping to prove he’s worthy of a more lucrative long-term deal.
But the fact is Jones could find himself being the odd man out in Dallas with other big names getting priority before him. Especially if Prescott, Cooper, and Elliott all cash-in this year.
Now consider that cornerback Anthony Brown is also scheduled to become a free agent in 2020. The former sixth-rounder has started in at least nine games for each of the past three seasons, mostly out of the slot.
Not as prolific as Jones, Brown has experience on the outside and posted a surprising rookie season playing in place of an injured Morris Claiborne back in 2016. That year he recorded 55 tackles, eight pass defends and an interception. In 10 starts last season Brown posted 44 combined tackles. 2.0 sacks, eight pass defends and a pick.
With yet another offseason training program completed under Richard, Brown might be ready to snag a starting role in Dallas or elsewhere in 2020. His play this upcoming season could allow the Cowboys to move on from Jones entirely next year. The same could be said for third-year corner Jourdan Lewis, although his size (5-10, 195) would seem to indicate he’d be a better fit in the slot.
If the Dallas Cowboys do opt to move on from Byron Jones next year, 2017 second rounder Chidobe Awuzie would likely be his spiritual replacement, with Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis competing for the other starting roles. But Dallas would once again find themselves in a pickle contact-wise as both Awuzie and Lewis are scheduled to become free agents in 2021.