Byron Jones might be the odd man out for the Cowboys this offseason after team vice president Stephen Jones hinted that signing the former first-round pick is not a priority.
“He’s had a great run at corner[back],” Stephen Jones told reporters at the combine on Monday. “He’s played really well, played at a high level and that’s the hard thing when you have quite a few good players on your football team: You get challenges. Byron understands that. But at the same time, he’s worried about Byron, as he should be.”
It’s a pretty tepid assessment of the situation for Byron Jones, especially when juxtaposed against the glowing endorsement Stephen Jones had given 26-year-old Dak Prescott on the same day.
“Dak’s our quarterback,” Stephen said. “He’s our quarterback for the future. We have nothing but the greatest respect for him.”
An electric performance at the 2015 NFL Combine, which included a world-record standing broad jump, skyrocketed Byron Jones’ stock and he was selected 27th overall in the draft. Jones has put up solid numbers over the past five seasons and was a Pro Bowler in 2018. Nevertheless, given the Cowboys’ salary-cap limitations, he could find himself on the open market come March 18.
“Byron’s a guy we think a lot of,” Stephen Jones said. “Certainly we’ll visit with his guys while we’re here, kind of see their direction and what they’re thinking. And we’ll have to keep moving.”
Jones addressed the inherent obstacle that the salary cap poses and specifically mentioned both Prescott and 25-year-old Amari Cooper. Both of their rookie contracts are up, and the team will have to shell out serious cash to keep them either by way of the franchise tag, which can only be exercised on one player, or long-term contracts. Last year, the Cowboys extended both star running back Ezekiel Elliott and linebacker Jaylon Smith.
“We’re going to have some challenges with our [salary] cap. We are,” Stephen Jones said. “Certainly, with Dak and Amari, that’s going to shrink it in a hurry. We’re going to have challenges, but they’re not challenges that we cannot overcome.”
Notably absent from that statement was Byron Jones. Cornerbacks Anthony Brown and C.J. Goodwin are also set to hit free agency in March, which could leave the Cowboys quite lean at the position.
“In general, defense is the priority for this offseason,” Stephen Jones said. “It’s fair to say it’s a focus of ours.”