Like him or not, on or off the field, the fact of the matter is that Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones has been among the biggest tests at his position for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger over the years. Having frequently drawn responsibilities covering Antonio Brown, Jones has held his own far better than most in that same role.
But if he continues to do so, it will not happen in Cincinnati, as the Bengals have elected not to pick up their club option for him, which will make the 34-year-old an unrestricted free agent in a couple of days. He was scheduled to earn a base salary of $5.3 million with a $500K signing bonus and another $200K in workout bonuses for a total of $6 million.
Originally a first-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans all the way back in 2005, Jones has had a long and winding career that found its zenith in the AFC North, as the Bengals were seemingly the only franchise willing to take upon themselves his extensive off-the-field baggage and give him an opportunity to resurrect his career.
In fact, he has spent the past eight seasons since 2010, the majority of his career, with the Bengals, during which he has been a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in separate years, even if he has had high-profile mental miscues that have cost his team, most notably a penalty at the end of the 2015 Wildcard game against the Steelers.
The truth is that Jones was very nearly released a year ago after he was arrested. While in custody, he was captured on the police vehicle’s internal camera saying a variety of nasty thinks, including that he wished for the officer to die. He also spit in the vehicle.
Ultimately, it was team owner Mike Brown who went to bat for him and publicly vouched for his character, telling critics to put the call upon himself. He is not unfamiliar with drawing the fire of those who believe athletes should be held to a higher standard. The drafting of running back Joe Mixon last year was just the latest example.
Jones ended up receiving a one-game suspension for that incident, but it was a poor season for him all around because he suffered a back injury that limited him to just nine games, spending the majority of that time attempting to play through it. It was a groin injury—while intercepting Roethlisberger—that landed him on injured reserve following a late-season game.
The veteran quickly became expendable with the emergence last season of William Jackson III, a former first-round pick who missed the entirety of his rookie season due to injury. He will pair with Dre Kirkpatrick, another first-round pick, as their starting tandem at the cornerback position, with yet another former first-rounder, Darqueze Dennard, in the slot.