The Miami Dolphins spent a lot of money this offseason to bring in free agents from other teams, so it's about time they pony up for one of their own.
Especially considering the one they chose was safety Reshad Jones.
As reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter on Monday, the Dolphins found a way to keep their blooming star in the fold for the next few years.
Most of the Dolphins' signings were geared toward putting the team over the top in 2013. This one is a sign that they still have their eye on the long-term future. If Jones continues on his career trajectory, his contract will be worth every penny.
Now, he must play like one, because he is getting paid like it.
According to Spotrac (which lists the deal as four years, $29.285 million), his yearly average is the sixth highest for any NFL safety. His guaranteed money is tied for fourth highest.
The major difference? Jones is 25 years old, a full three years younger than safety Dashon Goldson, who signed a similar contract earlier this offseason. His age, combined with his talent, made this re-signing a no-brainer.
"You are always looking for players to develop," head coach Joe Philbin said of Jones over a week prior to the signing. "He had a good year last year, good production, and we are looking for him to take another step forward in his development. It’s all about individuals reaching their full potential, and this season, tonight, is important for him as will be the rest of training camp and the season beyond. I think he has good upside."
The Dolphins have a long time to earn the return on their investment, but there's no reason to think they'll have to wait very long.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated him the third-best safety in coverage last year, and he gave up a passer rating of just 38 on throws into his coverage with 48.7 percent completions, four interceptions and one touchdown against him.
By PFF's metrics, his 2012 season was the fifth best by any safety in the NFL since 2008.
He's coming along quite nicely, but one good year isn't good enough, and he knows that.
"I can only get better," Jones told MiamiDolphins.com earlier in the offseason. "I got the ball rolling in the right direction and I just told myself I want to be recognized as one of the premiere safeties in this league. I think last year I went out and showed that to the world and I just want to keep it going."
If the deal is structured correctly, it won't have too much of an impact on their salary structure, either. The Dolphins still have over $13 million in cap space to work with for the 2013 season and roughly $11 million in space for next year. Re-signing Jones may prevent the Dolphins from making other big signings next year, but if this offseason's moves pan out, they won't have to worry about that.
Jones' best years appear to be ahead of him, and locking him up for the long term was a smart move. Now, it's up to him to develop into that potential.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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