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Bengals 2016 Player Review: Cornerback Adam Jones

When the 2016 season ended, it was essentially a lock that Adam Jones would be back with the Bengals in 2017. Now...not so much.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Adam Jones’ NFL career can be best described as an enigma.

That includes Jones’ tenure with the Bengals, which began in 2010 and slowly saw him go from being a below average cornerback with good returner skills to becoming a Pro Bowler and top NFL cornerback.

Jones was drafted into the NFL in 2005 by the Titans, where he took the league by storm thanks to his dynamic returner skills, though his defensive ability left a lot to be desired.

That led to him eventually being traded to the Cowboys, who later cut him before he signed with Cincinnati in 2010. It wasn’t until 2015 that Jones truly reached his prime, earning a Pro Bowl berth while becoming one of the league’s better cover corners.

But Jones’ play would take a dip back this past season, one year into a three year contract extension with the Bengals. He finished 2016 ranked 45th among Pro Football Focus’ top 119 cornerbacks. Though numbers rarely tell the full story with corners, Jones accounted for just 66 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, and seven pass deflections.

He was also a non-factor on special teams with Alex Erickson taking over the return duties. Jones’ impact as a return man was part of why the Bengals re-signed him last year as he was good for an explosive return every few games. Not having that while his coverage skills dropped off made him a cap casualty candidate as it is this offseason, and his age doesn’t help his cause.

Jones turns 34 when the 2017 season begins, so it’s hard to see him getting better. As of now, he remains under contract with the Bengals through the 2018 season. Even with his dropoff in play, when the 2016 season ended, it was essentially a lock that Jones would be back with the Bengals in 2017.

However, Jones’ future is now very much in doubt as not only his play has taken a step back, but he also was arrested this offseason for a variety of offenses, and his punishment from the law is still yet to be determined.

Making matters worse is this is not the first time Jones has been arrested. In 2007, Jones pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct after being accused of playing a role in a Las Vegas bar fight that left a man paralyzed.

Two people were shot in the altercation, and though Jones was not the gunman, the victim sued him and he was forced to pay more than $10 million, which as of last year was still being paid. Jones was also arrested in 2013 after he was accused of punching a woman outside a bar, but he was later found not guilty of assault.

Then in 2015, Jones got into an altercation leaving a Hollywood Casino in Indiana due to disorderly conduct, though he was never charged with a crime. Still all of these transgressions paired with his latest offense should be more than enough of a reason for the Bengals to cut him.

If Jones returns next season, the Bengals owe him a $7.6 million salary in 2017. He is also owed $6.6 million in 2018 if he’s still on the roster, even though Jones is now 33 and clearly on the decline after a career year in 2015 led to his three-year contract during the 2016 offseason.

And with Jones making so much, it was unclear if the team would be re-signing their other starting corner, Dre Kirkpatrick, who is set to hit free agency this offseason. Kirkpatrick would be one of the best cornerbacks hitting the open market in March, and it’s possible another team will pay more than the Bengals are likely willing to offer, especially with Jones under contract.

The Bengals would save about $13 million over the next two seasons by cutting Jones. The club could then take that money and have more money to give Kirkpatrick, who should not be allowed to leave this offseason.

Meanwhile, Jones should not return to the Bengals next season.