There are few athletes in professional sports with the name and well-deserved reputation of Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones. During Jones’ brief NFL career, he quickly has earned a reputation as a poster child for troubled athletes—and a one-year ban from the game—a ban that has yet to be lifted.
Recent quotes have indicated that the suspended Tennessee Titans' cornerback once again has mentioned a desire to resume his career with the Dallas Cowboys. Jones made the most recent statements during a radio interview conducted with Atlanta’s 680-AM:
"I just have to do what I have to do to get back on the field,'' he said. "Hopefully, it won't be long, and, hopefully, it will be a couple of more months. I would love to play for the Cowboys, America's team.''
Now, the question buzzing around Valley Ranch and throughout the Cowboys’ fanbase:
Do the Cowboys want any part of him?
Word from Cowboys’ beat writers is Jerry Jones and staff have had several conversations regarding Jones, signifying at least some level of interest.
The question is—should they?
I would say definitely.
Some might say.
Jones has a rap sheet as long as your arm and his next ‘transgression’ will probably be his last.
Lawyer/agent Manny Arora said, “As far as the NFL is concerned, he’s on or near his last legs. The Commissioner has made his intentions clear, and the reinstatement criteria are very specific. We’re comfortable the requirements and expectations will be met.”
When asked if a lifetime ban could be ruled out at this point, Arora said, “I fully expect Adam to be reinstated before the 2008 season. However, if there is a lapse in decision- making, then the Commissioner has the option to consider a ban."
So why should Jerry Jones and the Cowboys bother with this troublemaker? Why soil a reputation by associating with someone of Pacman’s character?
For plenty of reasons.
The most important would be that the Cowboys could use a man of Pacman’s talents. Say what you will about him, and rightly so, but Jones has elite talent. He was developing into a quality cornerback in his second season and had shown the ability to be a top return man as well. Both are areas where the Cowboys have glaring deficiencies.
A key weakness of the Dallas defense was the play of third cornerback Jacques Reeves. He may as well have worn a bulls' eye instead of a number.
Jones is an improvement over Reeves the moment he steps back onto the field.
Alongside Terrence Newman and Anthony Henry, he would arguably give the Cowboys the best trio of cornerbacks in the league.
Secondly, he would lend a huge improvement at returner over Patrick ‘Fair Catch’ Crayton. In two years as a returner, Jones returned four kicks for touchdowns and actually had a better return average in 2006 than Bears’ return man extraordinaire Devin Hester.
Now, before anyone jumps the gun, Jones is not Hester. Not yet anyway. But he’s obviously a dangerous return man and a significant upgrade over anyone on the Cowboys’ roster.
Another reason for optimism? The aforementioned ‘last legs.' This is a great motivator for Jones to turn his life around.
He knows he’s got one last chance to make things right. If not, he’ll face a lifetime ban from the league.
At 24-years-old, he’s got plenty of football left, if and when he returns to the field, and he knows more than anyone that he’ll never earn what he could playing football anywhere else.
Lastly, the financial aspect of the current situation could work greatly in the Cowboys’ favor.
Taking a look around the current NFL landscape, one can easily see the premium being placed on the cornerback position. Former Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel signed a six-year, $57 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. Not a bad deal if you can get it.
Meanwhile, fellow cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Nnamdi Asomugha never reached the free agent market, both being franchised at over $9 million each. Even former Cowboy Reeves signed a five-year, $20 million deal with the Houston Texans.
Comparatively, Jones’ current contract is due to pay him salaries of $1.3 million, $1.7 million, and $2.2 million. Jones’ agents also previously have stated that they would be willing to change his contract into incentives if a new team requested it. In the current NFL, that’s a bargain.
Now all is not rosy with Pacman. He would bring his reputation and ‘baggage’ with him and give the media a field day with any team that signs him. The negative PR would challenge any NFL franchise.
And again, Jones’ next misstep probably will be his last. Anyone taking the chance needs to ensure themselves against a future suspension or ban. The Cowboys should still use a high draft choice on a cornerback this year, Pacman or no Pacman.
But Jerry Jones has never shied away from controversial players, or players with perceived baggage. Many teams wouldn’t have taken the chance on Terrell Owens—Jerry Jones did. Many wouldn’t have signed Tank Johnson—Jerry did.
And he has to be intrigued by the possibility and opportunity Pacman would bring to the table. Jerry Jones often mentions opportunity when explaining hiring and signings, I can see that same quote coming from him during the Adam Jones press conference.