Knowing that the Dallas Cowboys will be bringing a new class of free agents into the fold beginning in a little over a month, speculation is infinite regarding what players the Cowboys will pursue. Often seeming lost or forgotten is the fact that Dallas won’t have a great deal of money to spend, so it’s not likely that we’ll see any contracts in the $50 million range like a year ago.
It seems like the Cowboys will be in position to make significant upgrades in the right areas, and the question will be how. Both free agency and the 2013 NFL draft will supply the most critical new faces for next season. With the Cowboys already having announced sweeping changes on the defensive side of the ball, there should be plenty of new faces to keep up with.
One of those new faces should be Baltimore Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones.
Jones is quite possibly the most athletic defensive lineman I’ve seen since Leon Lett. More on the genes this guy possesses shortly, but know that there is a ton of ability in this player if the chips fall in the right place.
Options for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s new 4-3 scheme are certainly there, but remember that price and value have to rule the day with these expenditures. It’s far too easy to get ripped off in the free-agent market, and owner and general manager Jerry Jones will have to shop rather carefully this winter.
The upside to Arthur Jones is that value is clearly not a question—but the expense might be.
Jones came out of Syracuse as one of the top defensive linemen available in 2010. He was also touted as being capable of playing nose guard in the 3-4 alignment.
His résumé with the Orange includes countless tackles for losses, clearly illustrating the quickness and athleticism of a man who played college ball at about 280 pounds. Jones had a lot of tackles, regardless of where they came at in relation to the line of scrimmage.
This is very telling for an interior defensive lineman.
Today, Jones is preparing for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans as a 310-pound defensive end with the Baltimore Ravens. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent following Sunday’s championship game at the Crescent City’s historic Superdome.
Jones slid a few rounds due to his injury history in college, which led to his being selected in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft. Selected by the Ravens 157th overall, Jones would have to switch schemes in a pretty dramatic way, having made a name for his self as a defensive tackle in the Syracuse 4-3 system.
No team in the NFL is more famous for its 3-4 affiliation than Baltimore.
This was a worst-case scenario for Jones—and a fate similar to that suffered by Cowboys lineman Jay Ratliff. The comparison here is that both of these linemen came from 4-3 programs in college and ended up playing interior positions in 3-4 fronts that marginalized their best qualities.
Jones would work like a younger Ratliff, and this is where the future value of this eight-year veteran from Auburn could still exist, provided that he’s still a part of the future.
Jones is a classic, gap-shooting interior lineman that is too quick for the average guard. By enticing double teams, this would begin opening doors more and more for new defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who hasn’t played in a 4-3 since college.
It’s likely that Jones would slim down a bit for his role in the Dallas rotation as he could afford to drop five to 10 pounds, thus making him quicker than he already is.
Jones is also the right age to pursue in free agency at almost every position: 26.
Beyond that marker and you’re not likely to get what you paid for when having to overpay veterans who are on the downside of their careers.
Statistically, it looks like Jones just hasn’t found the right system with which to flourish in the NFL.
As Jones arrived in Baltimore in 2010, the Ravens were already a team positioned to contend for a trip to the Super Bowl, a goal they have just now reached. Defense having been a hallmark of the Ravens franchise since the arrival of linebacker Ray Lewis in 2000, Baltimore was already well-stocked with talent up and down the defensive line. End Haloti Ngata was going nowhere on the depth chart, and rookie nose guard Terrence Cody would also enter the league with Jones.
But after three seasons, Jones is a starting defensive end for the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.
Jones will be a restricted free agent, meaning that Baltimore will have greater tools with which to keep him from moving on. But another team has to make an offer and I’m not sure the offers will be too steep for Jones, regardless of how the Ravens fare against the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.
Can the Ravens, possibly as defending world champions, afford to get into a bidding war with Dallas, or anyone else, for Jones’ future services? Perhaps they can, especially after getting Lewis and his salary off the books—and assuming it works that way because Lewis’ contract is good through 2015.
In other words, when a team wins the Super Bowl, every player that can profit from the victory will. Ex-Cowboys Kenneth Gant and Alvin Harper didn’t go to Tampa Bay because they really thought that the Buccaneers of that era were going to win very many games. They took the money while they could because there wasn’t going to be another opportunity to do so—and they were world champions with the Cowboys twice!
Such is the case with Jones.
The Ravens could make it tough to get Jones away from Baltimore, but it could be done.
Dallas needs younger, talented linemen as soon as possible. Other options in free agency, like Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, will cost much more than Jones given his advanced pedigree and accomplishments.
If getting Jones doesn’t hamper the future of the franchise, he’s worth bringing to Dallas. He has the prototypical 4-3 defensive tackle skill set that could really fast-forward the Cowboys back toward contention in the NFC East.
Interestingly, Jones has two brothers of note that speak to the athletic genes that run in this family.
Jones’ youngest brother, Chandler, was a first-round selection by the New England Patriots in last year’s draft. The two brothers played each other twice this season, including the AFC Championship Game at New England. Chandler made an impact as a rookie, also from Syracuse, by tallying six sacks in proving to be a future weapon in the Patriots' 4-3 alignment.
And the third brother, Jon, happens to be the UFC light heavyweight champion. Jon has beaten the likes of Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans—and basically everybody else.
In other words, he’s a bad mother.
Yes, this family has some athletic prowess going on, and Arthur could be a guy just waiting to become a household name—and Dallas has the coordinator to help make that happen.