November 29, 2017
Heading into 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles' cornerback position was thought by many to a potential season-ruining roster hole. Eleven games later, the Eagles are 10-1 and have gotten very good play from their top four corners, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, and rookie third-round pick Rasul Douglas.
They have a fifth cornerback, Sidney Jones, who ruptured his Achilles at his pro day back in March, before the 2017 NFL Draft in April. Jones would have been a target of the Eagles with the 14th-overall pick in the first round had he not gotten hurt, but because of his injury, Jones slid to the second round, where the Birds snapped him up.
Jones has been on the NFI (non-football injury) list for the entirety of the 2017 season. At any time, he is eligible to begin practicing for the duration of three weeks, at which point the Eagles will have to decide to add him to the active 53-man roster or shut him down for the season on IR.
On Wednesday, Doug Pederson revealed that the Eagles have no imminent plans to activate Jones to the active roster.
"Not right now," said Pederson. "He's still doing well with his rehab. He's getting better there, and we don't want to rush him back just yet."
Jones' rookie contract, like all drafted rookie contracts, is a four-year deal. Under normal circumstances, he would be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of those four seasons. However, if Jones does not participate in at least six games during the 2017 season, that would not count as an "Accrued Season," thus making him a restricted free agent at the end of his contract.
In Jones' case, the Eagles would have two different options to retain Jones when he is a restricted free agent. They could place either a first- or second-round tender on him. In 2017, a first-round tender cost $3.91 million, while a second-round tender cost $2.746 million. Those figures will rise each year, but will still be far more cost efficient than if Jones were an unrestricted free agent, assuming he's worth keeping.
Jones would be free to negotiate an offer sheet with other teams, which the Eagles would have the ability to match. Should the Eagles choose not to match the offer sheet, allowing the player to leave, they would be compensated with a draft pick from the signing team corresponding to the level of tender placed on the player.
Certainly, Jones being a restricted free agent at the end of his first four years is far more ideal to the Eagles than if he were to become free to sign with any team on the open market.
As for Jones' availability this season, even if he is healthy enough to play, Jones is still very much like an unwrapped Christmas present, in that the Eagles don't know yet what they have in him as a player. With four corners playing well and a capable fifth cornerback/safety in Jaylen Watkins, the Eagles have no shortage of depth at the position. They are probably better served gaining control over that extra contract year than rushing Jones back into some kind of role on an already dominant defense.
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