Perry: Jonathan Jones maintains 'love' for Pats entering free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Jonathan Jones is the busiest guy you know. Even in the offseason.
This week he was named an official ambassador for "Play Like a Girl," which is committed to supporting women and girls in sports and technology. He's one of five finalists for the NFLPA's Alan Page Community MVP award, which will be handed out next week in Phoenix. He's building Stem Labs at Burke Middle School and Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy in Boston. And in his spare time, he's learning to fly and on his way to his pilot's license.
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He's a man making the most of his time.
As far as his football career goes, it's still unclear where his time will be spent moving forward.
Jones is scheduled to hit free agency when the new league year begins next month. When he joined The Next Pats Podcast this week to discuss his many off-field endeavors as well as his 2022 season and more, he explained that he liked the idea of remaining in New England.
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Next Pats Podcast: Jonathan Jones maintains love for Patriots ahead of free agency: 'I hope' future is in Foxboro | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube
What's the likelihood he returns, he was asked?
"I would hope so. I would hope so," he said. "That's where I've spent my career. It's what I know. It's what I love. I mean, New England is home for me in that aspect. We'll see. We'll see how free agency turns out... and we'll take it from there."
Jones explained that he had "a lot of emotions" headed into this period of professional uncertainty, but among them is gratitude for the moments he's experienced as a member of the team that signed him as an undrafted rookie out of Auburn back in 2016.
"The things that I've been a part of, the things I've had the opportunity to be a part of my career there, has been a blessing," he said. "Just going into free agency, taking everything in stride, you know, one day at a time, and then just enjoying the process, enjoying the journey. Something new for me."
Not that he's against trying new things.
This past season Jones shifted from being primarily a slot corner -- playing the "star" position in Bill Belichick's defense -- to aligning along the boundary. What would be a seismic change for many was handled deftly as he helped fill a position of need. After the departure of J.C. Jackson last offseason, the Patriots had little outside-the-numbers corner depth beyond Jalen Mills and rookie Jack Jones.
"I enjoyed it," Jones said of the position switch. "I embraced it, honestly. It was a little bit different. Got halfway through training camp. They kind of came to me, asked me about playing outside, and I was up for it.
"I think a lot of people forget the Rams Super Bowl. I moved to safety. Had never played safety before that. I enjoy and embrace new challenges and just expanding my game. Knowing I have the tools to do those things and go out there and execute with my teammates... Being in the locker room with a good group of guys., it just makes it easy for me to go out there and do my job. Obviously being in Year 7, having a good understanding of the defense and everything like that, it makes it a lot easier."
Jones remembering Super Bowl 53 -- when he played 17 snaps at free safety in helping hold Los Angeles to just three points -- may be something the Patriots will do as well as the free-agency period approaches.
With Devin McCourty openly contemplating retirement, and with no obvious free-safety successor coming up the ranks behind him, keeping Jones and having him handle those responsibilities would make sense on a variety of fronts for Belichick.
Not only would Jones fill a possible need, and not only has he played there before, but he also understands all responsibilities in the Patriots secondary. He has the football IQ to handle the quarterback-of-the-defense role that McCourty so ably handled for more than a decade.
Jones staying in New England -- whether it's as a corner or a safety -- would also help the Patriots fill a vacancy on the leadership front should McCourty walk away from the game. Teammates have told NBC Sports Boston that Jones would be an easy choice as a captain in 2023 if they needed one in the defensive backfield.
Sounds like McCourty has told Jones the same. Jones already flashed those leadership traits this year by helping mentor rookies like Jack Jones and Marcus Jones -- players Belichick drafted to perhaps eventually take the veteran's job.
"I enjoy bringing in those younger guys," Jones said. "I'm at that age now where I came into the league -- Year 7 or 8, that's where Devin and Pat (Chung) and those guys took me under their wing. Being able to go through that as one of those younger guys, I embrace it. I enjoy bringing them along and helping them hopefully get to Year 7, to have a Year 7, and get to where I am in my career.
"I love to play football. Any time there's competition, if we're throwing rocks, I'm going to compete. That's just who I am to my core. It wasn't really extra motivation (when the rookie corners were drafted). It was just a chance for me to take the next step in my career, in my journey. Like Devin always says, 'Hey, you're the leader. You're the next up.' "
If Jones and the Patriots are able to come to terms on a new deal this offseason, he explained he would relish the opportunity to be "next up" as an example in the locker room of what it means to do things the right way. Just as previous generations of Patriots champions were for him.
"I came in under a standard from those guys and you just try to keep that up," he said. "You can't do anything new. You're not reinventing the wheel. You're just being a guy who's been around the standard, and knows the standard, and kind of conveys that to the guys in the locker room maybe in a different way than maybe the coaches can just by having that leadership within the locker room."
Editor's Note: Check out Perry's full conversation with Jones by subscribing to the Next Pats podcast, or watch on YouTube below.