Earlier this offseason, the Bengals elected to decline the option on cornerback Adam Jones’ contract.
Declining said option allowed the Bengals to save over $5 million in cap space for a player who ended the 2017 on Injured Reserve with a groin injury and had hernia surgery this offseason.
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.
Needless to say, it seemed like a wise move to part ways with the 34-year-old corner (turns 35 on Sept. 30), especially with the emergence of William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard atop the depth chart.
But while those two played well in 2017, there’s not a lot to speak of behind them. Josh Shaw has regressed in recent years while attempting to play both cornerback and safety. KeiVarae Russell and Tony McRae have both rarely seen the field in the regular season outside of special teams.
The Bengals did spend a pair of fifth-round picks on cornerbacks Darius Phillips and Davontae Harris, but they’re unproved commodities, and the Bengals rarely rely on rookies for significant snaps.
That’s why we can’t completely close the door on Jones being back in Cincinnati at some point in 2018. The Cincinnati Enquirer indicated as much while also getting some thoughts from Kirkpatrick on possibly re-signing Jones.
“You get the sense, coach, hey, might need to bring this guy in,” Kirkpatrick said of Jones. “But for the most part he just needs to stay ready, and if we do make that call I know he’ll come in ready.”
It really didn’t sound like Jones was gone for good either right after his option was declined.
Adam Jones has been told Bengals won’t pick up his option but would like him back to compete as nickel and returner.— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) March 9, 2018
He’d love to come back but if he can compete elsewhere as an every down guy ‘I have to sit down and make decision with family’— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) March 9, 2018
As unwise as it may seem to bring back Jones, who’s had a multitude of off-field issues throughout his career, it also feels like a move Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis will absolutely make if they think he’ll be one of the 3-4 best cornerbacks on this roster.
You’d like to think they have enough faith in Kirkpatrick, Dennard and Jackson to hold down the fort, but Kirkpatrick has been really struggling in camp thus far. Even though he’s being paid $10 million annually, he’s been a liability more often than not in his Bengals career.
And let’s face it: This is an owner and head coach desperate for wins it what’s a critical 2018 season for this franchise. If they think Jones can help that cause, then don’t be surprised to see the embattled corner return to the team at some point on a much more team-friendly deal, perhaps even the veteran minimum.
Truth is, we’re still probably an injury away from this move even being possible, but between now and Week 1, there’s a lot of time for that scenario to play out. Let’s just hope everyone stays healthy and this option isn not even considered.