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Bengals 2015 Exit Interview: Cornerback Adam Jones

The Bengals' most important free agent based on their 2015 play is easily Adam Jones.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part in sports, players tend to wear down and see a decline in their level of play as they age into their 30s.

Adam Jones has defied that and continued to improve almost every year he's been with the Bengals. Say what you will about Jones' history of bad decisions or 'boisterous' attitude, but he's been one of the NFL's better cornerbacks over the past four seasons and a key reason why Cincinnati annually had a great defense.

But 2015 was the first time in Jones' 11-year (9 season) career that he made the Pro Bowl, and it came after he had arguably his best season as a pro. Appearing in 14 games this season, Jones was the Bengals' No. 1 corner and someone who routinely locked down opposing receivers on the boundary.

He was a big reason why the Bengals ranked fourth in passing yards allowed per pass attempt (6.6), ranked fifth in opponent passer rating (78.9) and allowed the second-fewest touchdown passes (18). Jones also racked up 62 total tackles, 12 pass deflections and three interceptions this season. He was one of the game's few complete corners who was able to lock down guys in coverage while also getting physical in the run game.

The former No. 6 overall pick of the Tennessee Titans in the 2005 NFL Draft, Jones spent most of his career as a return specialist who happened to play cornerback. He was more often a liability who gave up as many big plays as he made.

Combined with multiple off-the-field issues, Jones bounced around from the Titans to the Dallas Cowboys before landing in Cincinnati in 2010 after sitting out the 2009 season. He also missed the entire 2007 season due to numerous violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy.

That may help explain why Jones played some of his best football this past season, despite being 32-years-old. His age didn't match the level of wear and tear that players his age should have, and 2015 was just his ninth NFL season, not to mention he has just 114 games under his belt, the equivalent of 7.13 full 16-game seasons.

How the Bengals and the rest of the NFL look at that will help determine what the market for Jones ends up being. His age dictates he should only get a deal for 1-2 years with $3-5 million annually, but his level of play this past season, combined with his lack of tread on the tires, suggests he could be in line for a contract paying him over $6 million for 3-4 years.

The Bengals will absolutely try and re-sign Jones, and I'd think he'll be willing to take a small hometown discount to stick with the franchise he's gushed over many times regarding how they stuck with him during his darkest times.

But what ultimately determines Jones' return to the Bengals will be his market. Is there going to be a team willing to pay him a big-money contract and pry him from the Bengals?

Only time will tell.