IRVING, Texas-- First-round pick Byron Jones will begin his Cowboys career as a cornerback, but that doesn't mean he'll stay there.
The Cowboys could eventually move Jones to safety – where he started his first two years at Connecticut – because they still plan for veterans Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Mo Claiborne to be major contributors next season, team owner/GM Jerry Jones said Thursday night.
"They're certainly on our team," Jones said. "As it sits right now, we plan on them being part of the team."
Scandrick's position seems to be the most stable of the three veterans. He's under contract through 2018, even though he has apparently skipped the start of voluntary offseason workouts for contract reasons (he's making only a $1.5 million base salary for 2015).
It's Carr's contract that has been the source of conversation all offseason. He'll count $12.7 million against the salary cap in 2015 and there's been speculation the Cowboys might ask him to take a pay cut.
Claiborne, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, is recovering from season-ending knee surgery and might not be ready for the start of training camp, even though his progress has been "really good," executive vice president Stephen Jones said.
The club has until May 3 to officially determine whether to pick up the fifth-year option for 2016 on Claiborne's rookie deal.
All those factors made corner a clear need on opening draft night. But Byron Jones' versatility actually gives the Cowboys the best of both worlds: He can start out at corner while Claiborne recovers and potentially move to free safety when the corner position gets to full strength. The Patriots have made a similar move with their 2010 first-round pick Devin McCourty.
With NFL offenses using multi-receiver sets more and more, the Cowboys want as many effective cover guys as possible.
"We were so fortunate last year to have Carr and Scandrick, without Mo, not to have an injury there with our (other) corners," Jerry Jones said. "The closest thing to a position that we thought we could get in trouble with was our corner (position). The next thing that we thought we could improve the defense as much as any place and do some things we haven't done is to have a free safety type roaming."
Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox were full-time starters at strong and free safety, respectively, last season. Both are under contract for next season.
Stephen Jones declined to address the status of the veteran corners' contracts, saying the team was focused solely on the draft this week. But Byron Jones' arrival does give the Cowboys more flexibility at two positions.
"He's a big tall corner, and you don't get taller at corner unless you pick them tall," Stephen said. "He certainly can do it. We feel good about him if he's playing corner and we feel good about him probably if he's playing safety."