Top free agents in the division: No. 17

Free agency officially begins March 12, so the AFC North blog is counting down the 20 best free agents (unrestricted and restricted) from the teams in the division. Let's continue with No. 17 ...


Bengals cornerback-returner

Status: Unrestricted free agent

The good: Jones exceeded expectations after allowing a critical touchdown pass in a playoff loss a year ago. He was the Bengals' best cover corner last season, according to Pro Football Focus' grading system. In mainly a supporting role, Jones allowed quarterbacks to complete 54.5 percent of their passes against him. He also broke up 11 passes, which was tied for second on the team. Jones was the team's best returner and brought back a punt 81 yards for a touchdown against Cleveland.

The bad: He's no longer a starting-caliber corner in the league, and quarterbacks had a 82.9 passer rating against him last season. Jones failed to intercept a pass for a second straight season. Even though he played 16 games last season, there's questions about Jones' durability. It seems he always has a nagging injury. Jones also has a history of losing his cool on the field. (Remember him head-butting a receiver in Philadelphia last season?) And there are those incidents off the field that are hard to forget.

The bottom line: The Bengals need to re-sign Jones and you can make that argument on his return ability alone. I'm still wondering why the Bengals stuck with Brandon Tate as the returner last season when Jones was much more dangerous and explosive in that role. Plus, Jones showed that he is still a productive pass defender. I see another one-year contract with Cincinnati in Jones' future.