The Cincinnati Bengals may be more synonymous with employing polarizing figures than anything else. Winning playoff games would certainly not be in the running. But the Bengals have a history of being the team to give players second and third chances, including players cast off from other organizations.
One of those players was talented cornerback Adam Jones, who could have been a star in Dallas if he had merely kept his head right. Instead, he has done well for himself in Cincinnati without the need of keeping his head on straight due to the leeway he and others have been given. But one wonder if he might have gone too far following the release of the patrol car video of his arrest earlier this year.
The Bengals are known to be significantly more tolerant of poor conduct than the average NFL team. I think there can be little argument about that. But even they may find themselves put in a position where they have to decide this offseason whether or not he is in their plans for the future.
While Cincinnati just re-signed him to a three-year deal worth $22 million last offseason, the reality is that it was a pretty favorable contract for the team that included just $6 million in guarantees. They could release him and save nearly $7 million this year alone. The 2018 season is also a team option year.
Jones will also be turning 34 in September and may not have a ton of life left him in him terms of quality years as a top cornerback. He posted three interceptions in each of the three previous season leading up to last year, during which he had just one, and only seven passes defensed.
One thing the Bengals do have here is leverage, at least if you lean heavily upon pedigree. They have drafted three cornerbacks in the first round over the span of the past five drafts, and didn’t even get an opportunity to use their top pick from the 2016 NFL Draft because of the fact that he got injured and spent the season on injured reserve.
The fact that they have both youth and pedigree at the position would make it easier to move on from a player who has been quality on the field—when not committing foolish penalties that hurt the team, mind you—but troublesome at times off it.
Saving almost seven million and dumping a cornerback who will be 34 years old wouldn’t hurt either—and, by the way, they would only accrue about $2 million in dead money over the next two years with the release, including about $1.3 million for the 2017 season.
This is actually a pretty relevant decision, as it comes in the year in which their other starting cornerback, and 2012 first-round draft pick, Dre Kirkpatrick is scheduled to hit free agency. They could use the money saved from releasing Jones to re-sign one of their talented up-and-comers on defense while expanding playing opportunities for their youth.