Philadelphia Eagles: Signing Byron Jones would be a mistake

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Eagles need an upgrade at cornerback, but adding Byron Jones and his hefty price tag would be a terrible mistake.

The Philadelphia Eagles need help at cornerback. That much is certain. With both starters from a season ago set to hit the open market, there are roster spots to be had. And while the team has already been linked to several potential top candidates, one, in particular, would be a HUGE mistake. And by huge mistake, I mean about $17-million-a-year, huge.

Unrestricted free agent CB Byron Jones is a very good player. Emphasis on very good (i.e., not elite). Should the Eagles sign the soon-to-be-former Dallas Cowboy, he would certainly help the team’s secondary and (hopefully) prove to be the stabilizing force that the Eagles have sorely lacked for years.

But at what cost?

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Widely regarded as the top free agent option on the market, Jones is expected to command an annual salary in the $15-18 million-a-year range. That is a ridiculous price to pay for a defensive back that is simply good – not necessarily great – on a team with plenty of holes to fill. Eagles GM Howie Roseman would be wise to invest efficiently while avoiding an exorbitant fee at a position he and the organization appear to view as expendable.

With the likes of Avonte Maddox, Cre’von LeBlanc, Sidney Jones, and Rasul Douglas under contract for 2020, there are internal options, but are any of these the answer? Perhaps in some capacity, yes, but the fact opinion remains they need an upgrade.

Keep in mind there could be even more openings in the secondary. All signs point to starting free safety Rodney McLeod‘s departure, and Malcolm Jenkins has publicly stated he will only return with a pay increase (which I fully expect will happen).

The Eagles currently have a projected $45 million in salary-cap space. This precludes any money they’d have to eat regarding Alshon Jeffery’s likely departure. Is it worth spending roughly $17 million of 2020’s cap on one very good cornerback? In this instance, I’m a believer that quality AND quantity are more attractive than over-paying for one upper-echelon free agent, being as there are other viable options.

The Denver BroncosChris Harris Jr. is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The Eagles were connected to him before the trade deadline, and he has the versatility to play inside and outside. Harris, a four-time Pro Bowler who will turn 31 in June, is likely to be a much more affordable option due to his age and could provide veteran leadership to an otherwise young Eagles’ cornerback group. Meanwhile, with 10 draft picks in the upcoming draft, the Eagles could invest in a promising young corner for Harris to groom.

New Jersey native Logan Ryan is another option. Having recently turned 29, Ryan could serve as a bridge to the young group while still playing at a high level.

However, Roseman indicated the very necessary need for the Eagles getting younger, and the PanthersJames Bradberry certainly fits the profile. A former second-round pick out of Samford, Bradberry, 26, has tallied eight picks while starting 60 games for the Panthers in four years, only missing four games in that span. Bradberry will be looking to get paid, but won’t come at the exorbitant fee Jones is likely to command. Roseman should have Bradberry’s agent on the line as soon as the legal tampering period opens Monday.

Salary cap flexibility is a necessary element for long-standing success. So, too, is an influx of young talent. The Eagles have ten picks in this April’s draft, and by spending efficiently in free agency, the door remains open for adding that one (or two) extra pieces when the time is right. (Think Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse in 2004.)

Jones is not “that piece,” and the team would be wise to avoid paying him as such, especially if the numbers reach the $15-18 million-a-year range. Roseman needs to be efficient with the team’s assets: spend money on an edge rusher for the defensive line, strengthen the O-line depth, add a backup QB (Marcus Mariota?) and invest in a speed wide receiver WHILE adding a talented, young corner.

All of these options are possible by passing on one more-highly regarded, expensive corner in place of less expensive, valuable players elsewhere, including cornerback.

Next. Justin Jefferson is Jordan Matthews 2.0. dark

Byron Jones may be the best of the bunch, but maybe not the best for the Philadelphia Eagles. We’ll soon find out.