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Bengals will need to answer the Adam Jones question

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With the emergence of William Jackson III, and the price tags of Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, where does that leave Adam Jones?

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Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones underwent sports-hernia surgery this week. The injury, one of several last year, eventually forced Jones to miss the final month of 2017. He also dealt with a hip injury and a transverse process fracture in his back, both of which he played through. Barring any setbacks, Jones should be ready by July.

Our question: What should the Bengals do with him? A recent poll at Cincy Jungle overwhelmingly support Jones’s exit.

Jones, who turns 35 this September, enters the final year on a three-year deal. Scheduled to earn $5,781,250 in cash — $5.3 million base salary and roster and workout bonuses of $281,250 and $200,000 respectively — Jones carries a $6,447,918 cap number. If Cincinnati releases Jones, the Bengals won’t face a prohibitive penalty ($666,668)... on the other hand, Mike Brown.

The emergence of William Jackson III — for my money, a future All-Pro — and Dre Kirkpatrick’s price tag ($3.2 million roster bonus and $8.1 million in cash) offers each a clear path to start. Darqueze Dennard, who had his fifth-year option picked up last April, will earn $8.5 million. While Jones could figure as a stronger option than Dennard in obvious passing situations, Cincinnati should might elect to focus more on developing Dennard beyond the upcoming season. If we’ve learned anything in today’s NFL climate, you need three top-flight corners to compete. Like Jones, Dennard will be a free agent after 2018.

Issues off the field have, unfortunately, continued. Fortunately, they’ve rarely spilt onto the field. A January 2017 altercation led to a second-degree misdemeanor of obstructing official business (charges of disorderly conduct and spitting on a nurse in jail, a felony, were dropped). The league suspended him for the regular season opener against the Baltimore Ravens and issued a $431,250 fine (approximately one game check).

“You know, I take all accountability for what I did and my actions and my words. I accept it — the one game suspension — and I’m ready to move on, man,” Jones said via the Cincinnati Enquirer prior to training camp last year. “I’m happy to be here, happy to be a part of the 50th season here and I think it’s going to be special.”

According to USA Today’s NFL player arrests database, Jones has also been arrested for disorderly conduct (Sept. 2013 and July 2011) and assault (June 2013), while under contract with the Bengals, usually all involving alcohol. None resulted in a suspension. Jones has been fined four times with the Bengals, costing $494,500. However, context is important. Of those four fines, three were for actions on the field accounting for $63,250.

If image and character are important to you (we’re 12 years removed from the arrest-saturated 2006 offseason and still dealing with image issues), then Jones should leave. If you compartmentalize his off-the-field issues, emphasizing victory over character, then there’s no real applicable reason to get rid of him. NOTE: That could change in free agency and the NFL draft; though I doubt it.

If Cincinnati keeps Jones on the roster, and there’s no indication that they’ve decided otherwise, then Jones should transition into a full-time punt returner and a fourth-string cornerback. Keep in mind that Jones earned a spot on the First-Team All-Pro team (2014) as a punt returner, edging out Darren Sproles. His $5,781,250 salary isn’t an issue as Kirkpatrick and Dennard will earn more — though one could argue that Jones is better than both players on a good day — and Cincinnati isn’t desperate for cash/cap solutions. Jackson should emerge as the acknowledged first-string cornerback; if that doesn’t happen, then everyone should be fired and the Brown family should sell.

But seriously... punt returner.

Holy moly, are you seeing this?
Adam Jones 55-yard TD punt return (which was nullified via penalty).
Josh Kirkendall

Unfortunately a block in the back nullified the return. Does Cincinnati have someone on their roster that can do this?

Just watch again, and again, and one more time.