The Dallas Cowboys had an easy decision to make last offseason when it came to picking up right guard Zack Martin’s fifth-year option. The same can’t be said about Byron Jones’ this offseason.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the organization has yet to make a determination on Byron Jones contract. Heck, the Cowboys are still debating whether he’s best suited at safety or cornerback after three years in the organization.
“That’s a work in progress,” Stephen Jones said Tuesday from the NFL Scouting Combine.
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The Cowboys have to make a decision at some point, of course. If they move Byron Jones to cornerback, which they feel may be his most optimal position, their safety depth takes a hit. Byron Jones has been a staple there the past two seasons, and they’d be left trying to fill his void either through the draft, free agency or internally with Kavon Frazier, Jeff Heath or Xavier Woods.
They could also explore moving Chidobe Awuzie to safety, although Stephen Jones said the Cowboys like Awuzie more as a corner than safety.
“Those are all things we’re going to be massaging and figuring out what we should do,” Stephen Jones said. “But I do think it’s easier to find a safety than a corner.”
Either way, the Cowboys have to make a decision on Byron Jones’ fifth-year option by May 3. The Cowboys believe he is one of the best cover guys on tight ends in today’s game, and new secondary coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard prefers longer corners.
“Obviously, Kris — his background in Seattle points to big corners. But I’d say we like big corners, too, if you can find them,” Stephen Jones said. “We drafted Jourdan [Lewis] and he’s not a long corner but he’s very gifted. He’s got a lot of skills that we like, especially in the slot. I just think those are all things that we’ll continue to look at. I think Byron Jones is more born out of, we just think that may be where he plays better, versus safety.”
Byron Jones has spent the past two seasons exclusively at safety. He started every game last season, being credited with 74 tackles, four tackles for loss, three QB pressures, six passes defensed and one interception returned for a touchdown. He also tied for the team lead with 11 tackles on special teams.
Byron Jones played 910 of 1,045 defensive snaps (87.08 percent), the most of any defender. But he regressed throughout the season and split snaps with Frazier as the season wore on.
Asked if not knowing what they have in Byron Jones after three years is disappointing, Stephen Jones said: “No, because I think he’s been effective for us. I think he’s one of the best in the business at covering tight ends, and that’s a big deal in our game right now. Everybody’s got a good one that they’re trying to get the ball to, and I’d be hard pressed to find someone who can cover them better than he can.
“I think he’s been efficient, it’s just finding his optimal spot.”