Cowboys see Devin McCourty in Byron Jones

IRVING, Texas -- In 2010, the New England Patriots drafted Devin McCourty with the 27th pick in the first round. He started 16 games as a rookie, had seven interceptions and was named to the Pro Bowl.

In 2012, he moved to free safety and was re-signed to a five-year deal worth $47.5 million by the Patriots.

The Dallas Cowboys hope Byron Jones, whom they selected in the first round Thursday night with the 27th overall pick, can be their McCourty.

"You've got to have guys who cover in this league," Stephen Jones, the Cowboys' executive vice president, said. "Certainly, Jones helps us out here. He's a big, tall corner and you don't get taller at corner unless you pick them tall. He certainly can do it and we feel good about him if he's playing corner and we feel good about him if he's playing free safety. And I think the McCourty analogy is good."

The Cowboys will use Jones at cornerback first, but they touted his ability to play safety as well.

"A lot of times you project to another position. He has the physical traits to play safety even though he's played cornerback the last few years," coach Jason Garrett said. "What he gives us is you see him play free safety for two years with two good cornerbacks when he was a younger player. ... I do believe it's a realistic projection for him to play cornerback and also play free safety. He has the athletic ability, the experience and he's one of those guys with great upside."

The Cowboys have Orlando Scandrick, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Corey White and Tyler Patmon as their top five corners. Scandrick is looking for a new contract and has not participated in the offseason program. Carr is set to make $8 million and the Cowboys would like to trim that number. Claiborne is coming back from knee surgery that could keep him out until the early part of training camp.

"This was the closest thing to the position that we thought we could get in trouble with was our corner," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said.

If Scandrick sits out longer than expected, if Carr does not accept a pay cut or if Claiborne's recovery hits a snag, the Cowboys have Jones at corner. If Scandrick and Carr can make the finances to work and Claiborne does not have a snag in his comeback, the Cowboys could put Jones at free safety.

Jones was a safety most of his first two years at Connecticut, where he played for former Cowboys' assistant coach Paul Pasqualoni. He moved to cornerback in 2013 and had five interceptions in his final two seasons.

"You see the trend moving toward bigger, stronger, more physical corners on the outside and I think I fit that mold pretty well," Jones said. "I like playing press man and I think that's a good position for me. Of course, whatever they want me to do, special teams, free safety, corner, I'll do it all."