The Bengals have some tough decisions to making within the next 40 days.
Following this coming Sunday's game between the Broncos and Panthers in Super Bowl 50, the offseason will be here for all 32 teams as they build their offseason rosters and craft their plans for the year ahead, a big part of which being free agency. Many teams will be in need of a wide receiver, and Marvin Jones will be one of the best to hit the market.
That is, if the Bengals don't resign him before March 9th. After that, all bets are off as at least one of the teams around the NFL will likely offer a deal bigger than what the Bengals will be willing to offer. And, Jones isn't hiding from free agency.
Jones made it clear to the Cincinnati Enquirer that he's not taking a hometown discount to stay with the Bengals knowing other teams are probably going to toss big deals his way.
"I'd like to be back, but at the same time I am a free agent – no hometown discount, definitely not – but I'm a free agent," Jones told NFL Media. "It wouldn't be good for me not to test the waters a little bit. So it's just an exciting process."
According to the Enquirer, Jones is seeking a contract around $7 million per season, and while there's questions as to whether the Bengals would be willing to pay that, he is one of their top priority free agents.
League sources indicate Jones is seeking nearly $7 million per season, or slightly more than Golden Tate’s 5-year, $31 million deal in Detroit in 2014.
That is a number the Bengals may be unwilling to match or exceed, but league sources indicate Jones is their top priority among the litany of free agents set to hit the market.
It will be hard to pay Jones $7 million annually while at the same time paying Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green $15 million annually. Then again, teams like the Denver Broncos (Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders) and Green Bay Packers (Randall Cobb/Jordy Nelson) pay close to $20 million annually to their top two receivers, and those involved deals signed before 2016. If Jones gets the $7 million per year he's seeking, that would give the Bengals two of the top 25 paid wide receivers in the league and a big price tag for the position.
That's significant as the salary cap is set to rise to between $150 million and $153.4 million after the 2015 salary cap was set at $143.28 million. This year's cap will lead to exponentially bigger deals, and maybe enough so to validate the Bengals paying Jones $7 million annually.
"In terms of the money, that's an issue that they'll hash out. But at the same time, I want to be a great wide receiver in this league," Jones told the Enquirer. "Sometimes an opportunity presents itself. If it's a good opportunity for me as we sit back and weigh the options, the pros and cons to everything, then it might happen. But I might stay. It's just a thing in the next couple weeks I have just to wait and chill and kind of let it play out. You basically go through all the scenarios in terms of living for the kids and myself and my football opportunity. It's going to be a good ride. In a couple weeks, it'll pick up and we'll get everything straightened out."
With Green on the roster, Jones will never be the Bengals' No. 1 wide receiver, and he may be seeking a chance to go to another team where he can be the No. 1 guy and better show off his skill set.
At the end of the day, the Bengals will likely operate this offseason like they do every free agency period: Set a price range and stick to it for the most part while allowing teams like the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns to overpay for free agents, even if Jones ends up being one of them.
I don't think the Bengals will pay Jones $7 million annually unless it's something like a two or three-year deal that won't be hard to shed if Jones doesn't live up to the deal.