Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones is expected to be one of the prize pieces in free agency this offseason, and he made it clear Thursday he intends the test the waters in search of his true market value.
“No hometown discount, definitely not” Jones told NFL.com, referring to the term used to describe a player taking fewer dollars to stay with his current team in order to maintain his comfort level with a familiar system, teammates and surroundings.
“I’d like to be back (with the Bengals), but at the same time I am a free agent,” Jones said. “I want to be a great wide receiver in this league. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself.”
Jones set career highs in receptions (65) and yards (816) last year, proving he had fully recovered from the foot injuries that cost him all of 2014.
The 2012 fifth-round pick began his emergence in 2013 when he caught 51 passes for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He is expected to be one of the top three receiver available in free agency, although reports out of Cleveland indicate Travis Benjamin is close to re-signing with the Browns. And there is a chance Chicago will use its franchise tag on Alshon Jeffrey, which would lock him up for one year at roughly $14.5 million and leave Jones as the most coveted receiver on the market.
According to published reports, Jones will be asking for an average annual salary of $7 million per year, which might be too much for a Bengals team that already has $12.8 allotted to five-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green in 2016 and a total of $60 million through 2019.
Jones and former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson had a great relationship, and it’s expected that Jackson will make a strong run at Jones in his first season as head coach in Cleveland.
Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu also is an unrestricted free agent, but with a lower market value. The Bengals also have James Wright, another receiver from the rich stable at LSU who was just starting to emerge late in 2013 when he suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss all of last season.
Jones hasn’t ruled out returning to the Bengals, but the past-tense language he used while talking to NFL.com may have been telling.
“I’ve had a great career in Cincinnati,” he said. “I’ve loved everyone. I loved the camaraderie from top to bottom. Just a first-class organization. I tip my hat off to how they run the organization. But, you know, I’m a free agent. There’s nothing but happiness that’s coming out of this whether I go or stay.”