The Bengals' official website reported Friday the team will not pick up his 2018 contract option, but Cincy would like to potentially re-sign him as a nickel corner and kick returner. Unless he's willing to settle for a new paygrade below the $5.5 million he was slated to get under his option, Jones likely will be on the market when the free-agent signing period opens Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.
"Of course I'd love to come back," Jones told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. "Don't make it sound like I'm ready to get out of there because I'm not. I'm very thankful to everyone there, Coach [Marvin] Lewis and [team owner Mike] Brown.
"...I'd love the chance to get on the field and compete every play, every down. Obviously I've got some things to sit down and think about the next couple of days with my family."
Jones had a difficult 2017 campaign that was hampered by injuries along with a one-game suspension at the start of the season. At 34, Jones has entered the expendable phase of his career for cornerbacks his age, even though he's constantly reminded his Twitter followers this offseason that he's working hard to keep Father Time at bay. The rise of cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard also has put Jones' Bengals future in a very precarious spot.
Still, this could be the end of what has been a memorable and, at times, tumultuous run in Cincy that witnessed his rise as one of the NFL's top cornerbacks. Since resurrecting his career with the Bengals in 2010, Jones has been the cornerstone of Cincinnati's backfield. He was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2014 and was a Pro Bowler in 2015.
Several off-field incidents, including his misdemeanor obstruction conviction last year that led to his one-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy, have tarnished his legacy. Brown publicly supported Jones after last year's arrest, but it remains to be seen if anyone outside Cincinnati would be willing to give the one-time dynamic playmaker a chance as a starting corner in 2018.