The New England Patriots entered free agency week with Jonathan Jones as one of their priority players. The 29-year-old had been a key member of their secondary for several seasons, and in 2022 served as a starter at the outside cornerback position — effectively taking over the CB1 spot previously held by Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson.
While Jones’ body of work might have made him a potential target for other teams, the Patriots did not wait to bring him back. Just 12 minutes into the so-called legal tampering period, the two sides reached an agreement on a two-year, $19 million contract extension.
Jones staying put does not mean the Patriots are done adding to their cornerback group. However, his presence keeps the foundation in place at this early stage in the offseason process — a foundation that currently looks like this:
Cornerback depth chart
Jonathan Jones: While it remains to be seen where Jones will line up in 2023, keeping him around gives the team some options. He could remain on the outside, move back into the slot, or possibly even help replace recently-retired team captain Devin McCourty at the deep safety spot.
Jalen Mills: Another versatile player who might factor into the safety discussion with McCourty no longer part of the picture, Mills is coming off a challenging season. Despite missing a combined seven games due to hamstring and groin injuries, the 28-year-old projects as a starter-level player in New England’s defensive backfield in 2023.
Jack Jones: Jones showed plenty of promise during his rookie season, but he ended it on a low note. The fourth-round draft pick missed the final four games due to a knee injury and team suspension. How that suspension (reportedly resulted from tardiness related to his recovery) will impact his outlook remains to be seen.
Marcus Jones: The Patriots’ jack of all trades, Jones made an impact on offense, defense and special teams in 2022. The All-Pro punt returner will be prominently featured as as sophomore as well, although his role on defense is a bit TBD: he spent most of his rookie campaign outside and was competitive, but appears better suited to move into the slot.
Shaun Wade: Wade spent all of 2022 on the Patriots’ active roster, but his impact was marginal. He served as an emergency option and ended the season with only 18 defensive snaps, making for an unclear projection looking forward.
Quandre Mosely: The undrafted rookie is already on his fourth team. After playing just one defensive snap for the Patriots after they added him in December, he too faces an uncertain future in the system.
Rodney Randle: A former rookie free agent arriving via the XFL and CFL, Randle was signed to a reserve/futures deal after the season. He projects as a depth option at best, and appears to be on the roster bubble alongside Wade and Mosely.
While these seven cornerbacks are currently under contract with the Patriots, two others who were with the team in 2022 are still unaccounted for: restricted free agent Myles Bryant, who can be tendered until Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET, and unrestricted free agent Joejuan Williams. At this point, Bryant returning seems a lot more likely than Williams being brought back.