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2018 Bengals cap casualty candidates: Cornerback Adam Jones

Between his age, run-ins with the law and talented high picks behind him, Adam Jones’ time might be running out with the Bengals.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Since he arrived in 2010, Adam “Pacman” Jones has been a pleasant surprise for the Cincinnati Bengals. Whether it has been in locking down a starting cornerback position or providing electricity in the return game, Jones’ eight-year run in The Queen City has marked a massive turnaround for a guy who was once viewed as the NFL’s poster boy for off-field issues.

Jones has had a couple of run-ins with the law since joining the Bengals, but it’s nothing compared to his early years in the league. In his eight years with Cincinnati, Jones has played in 104 total games, for an average of 13 games per season.

Given how the early years of his NFL career played out, one must give some semblance of kudos to Jones for a pretty big lifestyle turnaround. He’s had a couple of issues since joining the Bengals in 2010, but he’s been a much different guy since his days with the Titans.

There are some factors playing against Jones’ staying in Cincinnati this year. The Bengals aren’t usually creative with the salary cap and rarely need additional space, for a couple of reasons, so this discussion might be moot. But, with his salary, unknown role in 2018 and age, Jones could end up being a cap casualty.

Financial Figures:

2018 salary: $6.45 million

2018 salary cap hit: $6.45 million

Dead cap: $666,668

Why it makes sense to release him:

Talent in the position group: After Jones went down with a groin injury, it paved the way for William Jackson to get even more playing time. As his role grew, it became apparent that Jackson has the ability to be this team’s best cornerback.

While he has primarily played in the slot this year, Darqueze Dennard also shined with an increased role last year—both on the inside and on the perimeter. Even though Jones missed seven games this year, Cincinnati still finished with the No. 8 defense against the pass.

Age and potential injury issues: Aside from landing on Injured Reserve to end 2018, Jones was seen getting nicked up frequently before the groin injury that ended his season. He also apparently had a recent surgical procedure and it might be a sign that 11 years of NFL football has taken its toll on him.

Jones will be turning 35 years old shortly after this season kicks off. While he still shows quite a bit of his great athleticism on kick returns and at corner, there’s no doubt that Jones is at the end of his career.

Really low dead cap number: The $666,668 dead cap number is very manageable when possibly shedding his $6.45 million off of the books. If the Bengals choose to go after someone with a hefty free agency price tag or need more space should they franchise tag someone like Tyler Eifert, the penalty for releasing Jones would be minimal.

Why he should stick around:

Still contributing at a relatively high level: Jones had an interception off of Ben Roethlisberger and four total passes defended in his shortened 2017 season. Though he can be a bit of a gambler at corner sometimes, Jones has the ability to still play decently on defense.

And, even though Alex Erickson seems to have a stranglehold on the kick return duties, the Bengals to tinker with Jones on punts. He had six returns last year, but racked up a whopping 21.8 yards per return. He was also oh-so-close to having a return for a touchdown last year, but it was called back.

Does Cincinnati even need the space?: One of the more interesting talking points this offseason is in the possibility of the Bengals being more aggressive in outside free agency. Given his recent comments and the team’s 28-year history under Mike Brown’s reign, we’re skeptical that’s going to change by leaps and bounds this year.

Because of that, there might not be a need for Jones to be released. He could be a valuable, albeit expensive insurance policy as both Jackson and Dennard have had their share of injuries in their short careers.

He’s a Mike Brown favorite: Brown hasn’t been shy about his fascination for reclamation projects. It’s why he stuck by Chris Henry throughout his unfortunate issues and continues to do so with Jones.

Though Brown recently harped on the near-symbiotic working relationship he and Lewis have, it’s evident that he’s still calling quite a few of the shots. Given that he has a soft spot for Jones, we believe he’s going to let the veteran corner play out the life of his contract.