We had a feeling the Bengals might be a bit more active than usual on the first day of free agency this year, but most of the activity was because their hand was forced. Going into Wednesday's frenzied activities, Cincinnati had 13 unrestricted free agents, with seven either signing contracts or setting up visits. The Bengals lost two to other teams, including linebacker Emmanuel Lamur who went to the Vikings and Marvin Jones' bolting to Detroit, but retained three others, with Adam Jones being their final signing of the first day. Since then, Mohamed Sanu has also left the team to join the Atlanta Falcons.
While the team and most fans saw the value in bringing back Adam Jones to the team, there was also a tentative vibe when talking about a contract for a cornerback who has had past issues and will be 33-years-old at the beginning of the 2016 season. Regardless of which side of the fence you resided on, Jones reportedly signed a three-year contract with the Bengals, worth around $20 million.
What's To Like:
Jones' Fire and Improvement: Though he's definitely on the back end of his career, Jones is coming off two of his best seasons as a pro. In 2014, Jones was named an All-Pro as a kick/punt return specialist, and he made his first Pro Bowl as a cornerback this past season. The only touchdown Jones allowed throughout all of 2015 was a miracle one-handed catch made by DeAndre Hopkins, and the guys on the roster who would need to step up had he left have a lot more to prove.
The veteran corner has also asserted himself as one of the team leaders on defense, both vocally and on the field. His excitable personality has greatly aided the team, there are the rare, infamous scenarios like the one we saw at the end of the Wild Card game against the Steelers. Still, the continued improvement and maturity of Adam Jones the player and the man will be nice to continue to watch. After all, the guy rallied Who Dey Nation for a championship via his Instagram account shortly after signing the deal.
Continuity at a Position in flux: The Bengals have preached the desire to re-sign many of their own this offseason, and with the club staring at two potential veteran vacancies at cornerback because of free agency, they made it known that Jones was a big priority. After Jones played so well for the Bengals in 2015, and up-and-down seasons from younger corners in Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, Cincinnati wanted Jones back. At a minimum, Jones should provide stability in the short-term, as those two, and other youngsters who may be brought in, continue to develop.
Help on Kick Returns: Even though Brandon Tate was re-signed before he hit the open market, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Jones will still hold spot duty there along with him. With Tate's lack of big-play ability and Jones' knack for it, his versatility should continue to help the Bengals.
What's Not To Like:
Value?: An average salary of $6.67 million per year for a soon-to-be 33 year-old corner has to raise eyebrows, as does a three-year commitment. Technically, if Jones' 2016 cap hit is around the average of his salary throughout the deal, he'll be around No. 27 for cornerback cap hits in the league. So, on paper, it doesn't seem like a terrible cost for a guy who will be the team's No. 1 corner next year, but still, something about the deal just gives a slight feeling of uneasiness.
Father Time is Undefeated: This plays into the "value argument" a little, but the entire question that needs to be asked with the Jones deal is: "How steep is the downhill portion of Adam Jones' career?". Are we going to see the same player we saw be one of the anchors of the secondary from last year? Or, will Jones' age catch up to him mid-contract?
My Grade: B
Because of where the salary average could fall on cap hits for the position, it's hard to call this a bad deal. And, as many of my Twitter followers pointed out to me on Wednesday night, Jones has roughly two years less of wear-and-tear on his body because of his previous suspensions. Let's also remember that the Bengals got solid play from Terence Newman for three years when he was around the same age as Jones, so it's possible Jones plays out this contract at a high level.
Still, that would be the outlier and not the norm. If a noticeable decline occurs in the middle of the deal, we don't expect it to be in 2016, but maybe in one of the final two years of the deal. And, while Jones has matured since coming to the Bengals back in 2010, he still has had a couple of close calls off the field, including an incident with a woman at a Cincinnati bar and his getting tossed out of a casino by security. All in all, it's an offseason where the Bengals wanted to keep who they deemed their most important starters, and Jones was one of them. He'll be a band-aid starter for the immediate future, at least, and should continue to provide the occasional spark on special teams.
What do you think of the Jones re-signing?