The Eagles need to find a cornerback solution this offseason, and one name that continues to pop up in lists of free agency targets is Byron Jones.
The race for Jones seems to ebb and flow every day, but a report Tuesday evening from SNY NFL insider and Jets reporter Ralph Vacchiano makes it sound like the Eagles are in pole position to land the 27-year-old corner:
Both Jones and Bradberry are apparently looking for contracts worth at least $15 million per season - or more on average than what the Jets gave Johnson. Even if the Jets are willing to go that high, they are not the favorites to land either player. For the most part, sources expect Jones will land in Philadelphia while Bradberry ends up in Washington.
That certainly sounds like there's some momentum building towards Jones shifting NFC East allegiance, and Vacchiano's report comes just hours after the Broncos traded for Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye, likely taking them out of the running for Jones.
NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro listed Jones atop his list of free agent cornerback targets earlier this month (see story), and our Reuben Frank declared earlier this week that the Eagles "need to make Byron Jones their absolute top priority" when free agency tampering begins March 16 (see story).
So, yes, you could say this feels like a prudent move from the Eagles' front office.
A $15 million-per-year investment would put Jones right in the middle of the Eagles' highest-paid players, ahead of Zach Ertz's $12.48 million cap hit and behind Carson Wentz's $18.65 million cap hit. It's certainly a lot of money, and you just cross your fingers that Jones skews more towards Free Agent Malcolm Jenkins than Free Agent Byron Maxwell. But sometimes, you need to spend money to win games.
And Jones would immediately help the Eagles win games.
He has just two interceptions in his five-year NFL career, but he has 43 career passes defended and is known best as a shut-down corner who forces opposing quarterbacks to avoid his side of the field. Turnovers are important, but so is the ability to prevent splash plays downfield, which has killed Jim Schwartz's defenses over the years. Jones can be the solution there, and he can help young corners like Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones get their footing without worrying about defending opponents' best wide receivers.
Will there be other options at cornerback this offseason? Of course. There are more than a few free agents who make sense for the Eagles (see story), and the draft has first-round CB talent.
But the enticing part about pursuing a player like Jones is the certainty. We know Jones is good, and it looks like the Eagles' front office does, too.