It’s no secret the Las Vegas Raiders need a massive defensive overhaul. Head coach Josh McDaniels spoke about the necessity to have explosive players on the roster that can go get the ball. And the Raiders lack of takeaways speaks volumes on the absence of such players.
Retooling defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s side of the ball begins soon as the NFL teams can engage in the legal tampering period with unrestricted free agents. General manager Dave Ziegler and his talent evaluators are going to be busy like the other 31 teams next week. And for good reason.
With incumbents Nate Hobbs, Amik Robertson, Tyler Hall, Sam Webb, and practice squad addition Isaiah Brown as the cornerbacks on the roster pre-free agency, Las Vegas needs more quality depth and competition.
Enter Jonathan Jones.
Tale of the Tape: Jonathan Jones
- Position: Cornerback
- Year drafted: Undrafted, 2016
- Age: 29
- Height: 5-foot-10
- Weight: 190 pounds
- 2022 Stats: 69 total tackles (56 solo), 4 interceptions (1 returned for touchdown), 11 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles
- Career Stats: 330 total tackles (262 solo), 4 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 11 interceptions (1 returned for touchdown), 44 passes defensed, 8 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries
An undrafted free agent in 2016, Jones developed into the primary slot/nickel cornerback for the New England Patriots before assuming the No. 1 outside corner role this past season. He may be undersized at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, but the 29-year-old was a productive 16-game starter in his 894 snaps (84 percent of New England’s total defensive snaps) with four interceptions (one pick six) to along with 11 passes defensed. His additional three forced fumblers showcases Jones’ ability to put hands on the ball.
Jones also charted well in coverage. According to Pro Football Reference, he was target 91 times yielding 48 completions (52.7 percent completion rate) for 588 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterbacks throwing his way sported a 73.0- passer rating.
While Jones isn’t going to be mistaken for a thumper, he’s an adequate tackler with 69 total this past season (56 solo), and he comes with requisite 4.33 40-yard dash speed to be a boundary corner.
But Jones showed he can handle adverse situations by developing into a perimeter defender and not strictly to slot duties. Las Vegas attempted this with Hobbs and there’s enough time for him to develop much like Jones. But competition brings out the best in everyone and the Raiders need not only standout starters, but quality depth.
Las Vegas lacks a true No. 1 corner and Jones has the ability to assume and earn the role in the desert — if he hits the open market. He noted he’s found a home in New England and the Patriots could sign him to a new deal.
In terms of market value, Jones is predicted to earn quite a handsome pay day on the open market. Spotrac calculates his value at $12.4 million per year on a two-year, $24.928-plus million deal. That would put him in top 20 in cornerback money.
In comparison, Spotrac lists Raiders in-house free agent Rock Ya-Sin (26 years old) at a $10.8 million annual average value and on a predicted four-year, $43.518-plus million deal due to his age and production. Ya-Sin was Las Vegas’ No. 1 corner before injury limited him to just 11 games this past season.
Thus, it appears either route Las Vegas goes to bolster the cornerback position in free agency — by re-upping Ya-Sin or luring a free agent like Jones in — it’ll cost the team a pretty penny.