5 Things to Know About Byron Jones’ 5th Year Option

by | Apr 23, 2018 | Articles, The League, The Team

The Dallas Cowboys have picked up the 5thyear option on Byron Jones’ contract.  But what in the heck is a “5thyear option”, and what does it mean for Jones and the team? Read on, we’ll fill you in!

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1. First-Round Pick = 5thYear Option

When an NFL team drafts a player, a 4-year rookie contract is the standard.  However, if a player is drafted in the 1stround, a team can exercise a 5th-year option on that player.   Why?  Because it gives teams more contractual control over their top investments (first-rounders).  But here’s the rub:  the team has to decide whether or not to exercise the option prior to that player’s 4th NFL season.  This year’s deadline is coming up soon; the Cowboys had to make a decision by May 2nd.

Byron Jones, who was drafted in the 1stround in 2015, is about to enter his 4thseason.  He was already under contract for 2018.  But the Cowboys had to decide whether or not they wanted to commit to him for 2019.  They decided “yes”, so now he has at least two more seasons with the Cowboys.

2. Fifth-Year Option = Semblance of Security

For a former 1stround pick like Jones, the option is both good and bad.  It’s good because his 5thyear option ($6.19m) is guaranteed for injury.  It’s bad because he does not enter free agency after his original 4-year rookie contract ends.  The team now controls him for a 5thyear by exercising their option.

Could Jones have made more money by hitting free agency next spring?  I guess we’ll never know.  He’s tied to the Cowboys through 2019.  After that season, the Cowboys can try to sign him to a longer-term deal or he can hit free agency.

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3. The Cowboys Are 4-for-5 on Using Their 5th-Year Option

Since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement began in 2011, the Cowboys have exercised 5thyear options on four of their five picks in the first round including: LT Tyron Smith, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, and now Byron Jones.  The only Cowboys’ first-rounder to not have his 5th-year option picked up was cornerback Morris Claiborne who was drafted in 2012.  After four seasons, Claiborne became a free agent and later signed a one-year deal to play with the Cowboys in 2016.  But it was at a much lower price ($3.7 million with incentives) than he would have earned if the Cowboys had exercised his 5thyear option (over $11 million).

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4. No Doubt About It, Byron Jones Is Moving to Cornerback

One of the storylines of this offseason has been speculation that Byron Jones would make a full-time move back to the position he played during his rookie season: cornerback.  Jones confirmed that he’s moving from safety to cornerback during an event at The Star last week with the new professional lacrosse team, the Dallas Rattlers.  Jones introduced himself at the event as a “cornerback” and confirmed to reporters that the Cowboys’ new defensive backs coach, Kris Richard, had talked to him about the move to his more natural position.

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As long as I’m in position to succeed, and if [Coach Richard] believes the best position is corner, then I’m down with the move,” said Jones.

Coach Richard has a history of preferring big-bodied cornerbacks.  During his time with the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary, he used bigger-bodied defensive backs at the cornerback position.  Byron Jones (6-0, 205) is the prototype size for Richard’s style of play.

With Jones moving full-time to cornerback, who will play safety?  The Cowboys still have Jeff Heath who started alongside Jones last season. They also have Kavon Frazier and Xavier Woods returning to compete for a starting spot.

The Cowboys could also address the safety position in this year’s draft.  And the rumors about a possible Earl Thomas trade continue to float around.  Thomas is still a member of the Seahawks, but his former position coach (Richard) is now with the Cowboys.

Perry Knotts via AP Images

5. Byron Jones = Good Investment

One of the key factors in the Cowboys’ decision to exercise Jones’ 5th-year option is his durability.  Not only has he played in every game since being drafted in Round 1, he plays more than 90-percent of defensive snaps.  Last season, he was on the field for 910 of 1,045 defensive snaps.

Jones is also a key member of Cowboys’ special teams.  Last season, he tied for the team lead in special teams tackles (11).