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Bengals decline the option on Adam Jones’ contract, send him to free agency

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This — for now — ends Jones’ time in Cincinnati and sends the cornerback to the free agent market.

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NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have elected to decline the option on cornerback Adam Jones’ contract. The deadline for the decision was March 14, the start of the new league year. For now, this ends Jones’ tenure with the Bengals, though he remains under contract through Wednesday.

Declining the option means as of Wednesday Jones will no longer be a member of the Bengals, though the team may look to bring him back at a more reasonable price, according to Geoff Hobson. Per Spotrac, in 2018 Jones would have earned a base salary of $5,300,000, a roster bonus of $281,250 and a workout bonus of $200,000. He carried a cap hit of $6,447,918 and a dead cap value of $666,668. That dead cap amount is all the Bengals will now be on the hook for with Jones now off-the-payroll.

Jones ended the 2017 on Injured Reserve with a groin injury and had hernia surgery this offseason, which isn’t considered major. Pro Football Focus gave Jones a 47.0 grade for the 2017 season, which ranked below William Jackson, Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick. A 47 grade is considered a “poor” player in PFF’s terms. Even Keivarae Russell had a higher grade as did Tony McRae

Hobson tweeted about Jones’ interest in returning to Cincinnati, making it seem like the two sides could work out a new deal, but Jones may also test the free agent market.

“Of course I’d love to come back,” Jones told Hobson. “Don’t make it sound like I’m ready to get out of there because I’m not. I’m very thankful to everyone there, Coach Lewis and Mr. (Mike) Brown. Of course, you know me. I’d love the chance to get on the field and compete every play, every down. Obviously I’ve got some things to sit down and think about the next couple of days with my family.”

With Kirkpatrick, Jackson and Dennard all on the roster and all being first round draft picks, the Bengals have more than their fair share of talented cornerbacks. Jackson proved in 2017 he needs to be starting moving forward, Kirkpatrick is also getting paid a huge sum ($9,568,750 cap hit in 2018), which means he’ll likely be starting and the Bengals picked up Dennard’s fifth year option for 2018, so he’s getting paid like a top cornerback, too. With the three of those players in or entering their prime, there wouldn’t be much playing time for Jones without a player suffering an injury. Though, the cornerback position is one that sees a lot of injuries, it sounds like Jones wants to play somewhere that he can start or at least compete to start.

The Bengals can negotiate a new deal with Jones between now and Wednesday but if no deal is reached at that point, he will hit the unrestricted free agent market. At that point, the Bengals still could attempt to bring him back.

Simply said, picking up the option on Jones’ deal would not have made sense for the Bengals and the team made a smart decision to decline the option. This should offer some hope for Bengals fans that the team is making good business decisions as we enter the new league year on March 14.