Philadelphia Eagles: Howie Roseman made the right call on Byron Jones

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

While it would have been exciting for the Philadelphia Eagles to sign a top-tier cornerback, Howie Roseman ultimately made the right call in avoiding Byron Jones.

Free agency doesn’t officially open up until Wednesday, but for some fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, it may as well be over.

After setting probably unrealistic expectations that the Birds would come out swinging when the legal tampering window opened up to Monday afternoon, finally landing true number one options at both the cornerback and wide receiver positions, closing out the night with two defensive tackles was never going to satisfy.

A decade in, I guess some still don’t know how Howie Roseman does business.

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Despite what some would like you to believe, signing a single superstar cornerback is not going to fix a defense. They can certainly help, but no one player is a magic cure-all. Jalen Ramsey was the apple of many fans’ eyes in October and rightfully so. Ramsey is maybe the best overall cornerback in the NFL depending on who you ask, and fans banged the table for his addition when the Jacksonville Jaguars made him available. Yet the player he replaced, Marcus Peters, actually performed better with the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 and finished out the season with a better Pro Football Focus grade.

Coverage in the NFL is incredibly volatile, and even the best cornerback can vary considerably from game to game.

Byron Jones falls into that category.

Despite looking like the prototypical ideal for the cornerback position, Jones has never quite performed up to that level. Sure, he can do his part to lock down an opposing receiver and/or a side of the field depending on the scheme, but he’s notoriously bad at playing the ball in the air.

31 games is a relatively small sample size, but recording 20 passes defensed and zero interceptions on 1,936 defensive snaps is borderline impossible to replicate for a top-tier cornerback.

Odder still, the last time Jones logged an interception was in 2017, when he was playing free safety for the Dallas Cowboys. Why a team would play a 6-foot tall, 205-pound defensive back with long arms and generational burst far off the ball as a single high free safety is beyond me, but I’m not a GM. The critique still stands that Jones has never shown an ability to impact the game as an on-call defender tasked with fighting for the ball in the air.

Could you honestly imagine Jones playing in Jim Schwartz‘s scheme? Not like in an ‘added to my Madden team’ sort of way but in real life? Fans would be furious watching him fail to turn his head when the ball is in the air, and seldom even try to pick off a pass when it’s in his area.

Schwartz loves playmakers and Jones just isn’t a playmaker.

Committing $82.5 million to a cornerback just because he’s the best player on the market is not how you win games or build a viable long-term strategy. You win by locking in undervalued scheme fits like Javon Hargrave to a medium-term deal – a contract with a very high floor.

For $5 million less a year, the Eagles’ defensive line will now have to be addressed by opposing offensive coordinators during the planning process, limiting the number of deep passes and long evolving plays a team can run before their quarterback finds himself on his back.

That matters.

Next. Javon Hargrave is a revelation for Jim Schwartz. dark

Saving money to invest in a second-tier cornerback – maybe even two – may ultimately prove to be the right call. Alternatively, Byron Jones could just as well finally take a step forward and becomes the second coming of Deion Sanders in Miami. That’s the risk (or lack thereof) Howie Roseman is taking by prioritizing defensive line over a volatile big-money cornerback: Improving in the margins at a position of strength versus taking a homerun swing on a boom-or-bust position of need.